Brittany Prince isn’t afraid to admit it. She’s addicted. How much does she use? "I’d probably say at least 12 to 13 hours per day,” said Prince, a 21-year-old employee, student, Oklahoma City mom and Facebook user. "It’s bad.”
Her "addiction” to Facebook may be bad, but she’s not alone. Everyone from the balloon boy’s YouTube-posting family to the college kid next door to the kid’s mom shares characteristics that scream social media addiction. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and other social media help keep users constantly connected while also cratering face-to-face and verbal communication, said Judith Wright, self-help guru and author of "The Soft Addiction Solution.” "It’s become a huge problem,” Wright said. For many people, social media use is a soft addiction that begins innocently, she said. "Soft addictions are those seemingly harmless habits like checking your Facebook page or getting on your e-mail or Internet surfing or watching too much TV or shopping or gossiping or even overcleaning. Just normal everyday activities that we so often overdo and we don’t really realize the cost,” Wright said.
Popular mediumFacebook is one of the most popular outlets with some 300 million users who, on average, can’t resist checking their profiles 20 times per day, according to Facebook representatives and Wright. "It is easy to get addicted,” said Carmon Procell, a 20-year-old student at Oklahoma Christian University. "I was addicted at one point. It seemed like I never shut down my Facebook.” She said boredom sometimes still leads her to click on Facebook, "when, honestly, I should just read a book.” Facebook users collectively spend more than 8 billion minutes daily on the social medium. And a blizzard of quizzes, virtual gifts and games entice users to spend even more time tending their site. Michele King, 28, of Oklahoma City said she teetered on addiction to MySpace, then Facebook, before she and her husband started their family. "I was really addicted to it at first. I’d get excited because I’d find all these people (online),” she said. "Then I got sick of looking at the computer screen.” Now she likes to check up on old friends and family through Facebook about three times a day for 10 minutes each time. But she has noticed that some of her buddies have gotten sucked in by social media. "I know people who will spend hours harvesting their crops and taking care of their animals (on Facebook),” she said.
Connection costsWright said avid social media users need to consider the costs — beyond the time spent.
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