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Is Social Media Addictive? New Study Challenges the Notion

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The Debate Over Social Media Addiction

Social media can be harmful, but the question of whether a person can become addicted to it remains a topic of debate among researchers. The implications of settling on an answer to this question are significant, affecting everything from internet policies to the treatment of addiction. However, conflicting findings from previous studies have made it difficult to reach a consensus on this issue.

New Study Attempts to Reconcile the Conflict

A recent study led by psychology professor Niklas Ihssen and his student Michael Wadsley at Durham University aimed to shed light on this debate. The study followed 51 students for 15 days, during which they were instructed to avoid social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. The participants' social media use decreased significantly, with an average usage time of 30 minutes per day compared to the previous three to four hours.

No Evidence of Withdrawal Symptoms

The study also looked for symptoms of withdrawal commonly found in substance-use disorders, such as cravings and relapses. Surprisingly, the participants did not experience the expected withdrawal effects. Their reactions to seeing social media app icons and their overall usage time remained lower even after the week of abstinence had passed.

The Need for Consistent Research

While this study challenges the notion of social media addiction, it cannot conclusively answer the question on its own. According to David Zendle, a lecturer at the University of York, independent study teams need to use shared metrics, methodologies, and definitions to reach a consensus. The lack of agreement among researchers poses a danger, as false claims of addiction can lead to inappropriate treatment and undermine the severity of true addictions.

Behavioral Addictions: A New Field of Study

Classifying problematic social media use as an addiction is challenging because behavioral addictions are a newly defined concept. Only gambling addiction is currently recognized by official diagnostic criteria. Researchers are still exploring the potential for other behavioral addictions and where they may be applicable.

The Importance of Balanced Research

Wadsley and Ihssen's study provides a more balanced perspective by challenging the addiction theory and highlighting the varied effects of social media use on mood. The findings suggest that current thinking about social media addiction may not align with what is happening in the brain. While excessive social media use can cause issues, the researchers caution against over-pathologizing these behaviors.

In conclusion, understanding the impact of social media on individuals requires further research and agreement among experts. As the debate continues, it is important to consider the diverse effects of social media use and avoid making broad generalizations about addiction.

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