In Sweden, a large debate is formed about young girls being addicted to social networking sites such as facebook.com. Science, is placing the term addiction on a social behaviour.
The term addiction is used too often in a variety of unsuitable contexts and is loosing its purpose as a medical and psychological concept. Anything used within regular terms, creating a social pattern, is named addiction. The medical and social behaviour term for addiction is (in short):
Pleasure activating stimuli in the cortex manifested in behaviour driven to acquire that particular stimuli. The longterm activation of the stimuli will lead to biological and social deterioration.
How can then a social act, lead to social deterioration? It is a philosophical roundabout without any exits. Can we be addicted to talking to friends? What is pleasure activating stimuli when it comes to networking? The behavioural networking online pattern has only existed for one continuous generation unlike in alcohol and drugs which have been around for several hundred, the parameters and the criteria for addiction and anomalies for online behaviour have not yet been scientifically explored. No clear and unified criteria exists, anyone can call anything related to online an addiction, that is not a sustainable way to develop cyber psychology( which is an actual field nowadays) . This is why I think that the term addiction is used too often and in the wrong context. Most of these girls, grow out of this period. Let me put it like this.
You, born in the 60’s. Remember your sister? She would spend 4 hours a night on the telephone, talking to a friend she just spend a whole day with about some guy that looks cute and said “hello” to her that day. Analyzing for hours if he meant “hello” or if he meant ” i like you too”.
Or your brother, remember him? He spent 3 hours in the basement or the back yard gluing old ice-cream sticks together, hoping to recreate the Death Star from Star Wars.
Things haven’t changed that much. In fact, they haven’t changed at all. That same sister sits at her computer and chats with her school friends about that cute guy in the hall way. The brother is in his room on some site creating the Death Star with the help of graphics.
It is easy to see where society is going, but we never stop to thing where it has been. The people haven’t changed, technology and the way they express themselves have. Even back then there was one or two brothers and sisters that stuck to the phone more than they should, and undoubtedly for at least some it meant an actual addiction.
But dear fellow scientists, don’t forget the reality behind the numbers. After my recent study (in print, online in November) I asked 151 teenagers about this very question. I could have easily switched Facebook for telephone and 2009 for 1989 and I have a feeling that the answer would have been identical.
Addiction is a serious matter, no doubt there are people who have chosen Facebook as their drug. The depth of the mulifactorial aspects of that addiction and the philosophical aspects are far too long to put in this blog. But please, dare to look beyond until we have explored this world with less biased eyes.