Got the Facebook fears?
According to a recent study released by non-profit Anxiety UK, over half of the social media users polled said Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites had changed their lives -- and 51 percent of those said it's not been for the better.
Forty-five percent of responders said they feel "worried or uncomfortable" when email and Facebook are inaccessible, while 60 percent of respondents stated "they felt the need to switch off" their phones and computers to secure a full-fledged break from technology. In other words, it's not being on social networks that makes people anxious. It's being away from them.
"These findings suggest that some may need to re-establish control over the technology they use, rather than being controlled by it,” says Anxiety UK CEO, Nicky Lidbetter.
Data also revealed that two-thirds of respondents had difficulty sleeping after using social media, and 25 percent admitted to difficulties in relationships because of "confrontational online" behavior, per the Telegraph.
The survey was conducted by the Salford Business School at the University of Salford, where 228 participants were polled for Anxiety UK's research.
While the study consists of a small sample size, Salford's data backs up other information on social media addiction. In a recent study Mobile Mindset study by Lookout, it was found that 73 percent of people would panic if they lost their smartphone, while another 54 percent admit to checking their phone "while lying in bed."
But are social media users anxious because of social media, or do more anxious people gravitate toward digital interactions?
“If you are predisposed to anxiety it seems that the pressures from technology act as a tipping point, making people feel more insecure and more overwhelmed," Lidbetter states.
A similar study from the University of Bergen in Norway measured Facebook user addiction this last April, finding those with poor sleeping habits were most likely to be Facebook-obsessed.
"We have also found that people who are anxious and socially insecure use Facebook more than those with lower scores on those traits, probably because those who are anxious find it easier to communicate via social media than face-to-face," author of the study Dr. Cecilie Schou Andreassen states.
While social media may cause some anxiety, don't add depression to the list of Facebook's vices just let. As Katherine Bindley of the Huffington Post reported, new research from the University of Wisconsin suggests the amount of time spent on Facebook had little correlation to test subject's symptoms of depression.
Do you believe your social media use has added stress and anxiety to your life? Or are digital interactions a "tipping point" for already anxious users? Let us know in the comments section, and then check out the slideshow below of six things that are allegedly less addictive than social media.
<a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/feb/03/twitter-resist-cigarettes-alcohol-study" target="_hplink">The Guardian</a> reports "tweeting or checking email may be harder to resist" than alcohol, among other substances. In one test conducted by Wilhelm Hofmann of <a href="http://pss.sagepub.com/content/23/6/582.abstract" target="_hplink">the University of Chicago,</a> researchers found that users' desire to check their phones was stronger than the urge to grab a drink. Researchers also found "that as the day wore on, willpower became lower" when attempting to avoid a smartphone.
In the same <a href="http://pss.sagepub.com/content/23/6/582.abstract" target="_hplink">University of Chicago study,</a> social media was also found to be "more addictive" than cigarettes. <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2012/02/03/facebook-more-addictive-than-cigarettes-study-says/" target="_hplink">Forbes writes</a>: <blockquote>It's a feeling we're all familiar with -- that we'll just sign on, check Facebook, check Twitter, see what's there. The little buildup of tension when the loading screen starts to go, the little release when it jumps and the page loads. It's a quick, easy fix unlikely to give you liver disease or lung cancer, one of the reasons that the addiction may be so much more pervasive than traditionally harmful pastimes.</blockquote> "With cigarettes and alcohol there are more costs -- long-term as well as monetary -- and the opportunity may not always be the right one," Hofman, the researcher who conducted the study, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/feb/03/twitter-resist-cigarettes-alcohol-study" target="_hplink">told The Guardian</a>. "So, even though giving in to media desires is certainly less consequential, the frequent use may still 'steal' a lot of people's time."
While the urge for sex may still be stronger, participants in the University of Chicago study had little willpower over their social media needs. <a href="http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2012/01/27/study-finds-lure-entertainment-work-hard-people-resist" target="_hplink">The University of Chicago News notes,</a> "Desires for sleep and sex were the strongest, while desires for media and work proved the hardest to resist."
Talking Out Loud
Using the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/02/smartphone-usage-stats_n_1643761.html?utm_hp_ref=technology" target="_hplink">"phone" function to talk on on smartphones has increasingly been taking a back seat</a> to Facebook-ing, tweeting, checking-in, and the like. Chitchatting on the phone after school doesn't happen often for today's younger generations. In a study involving over 1,000 13- to 17-year-olds, Facebook "dominated teens, with seven out of 10 people surveyed saying they have an account," <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-tech/post/many-teens-tell-survey-theyre-addicted-to-social-media-texting/2012/06/25/gJQAvZc72V_blog.html" target="_hplink">per The Washington Post.</a> The study also found that only 4 percent of the participants prefer to use the telephone as a method of communication. So maybe we still don't know much about how addictive phone calls are relative to social media -- but we do know they're a whole lot less popular.
<a href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2011/08/technology-addiction-chocolate-caffeine.html" target="_hplink">The LA Times</a> reports that 55 percent of Americans polled in a survey said caffeine was less crucial to them than access to social media: <blockquote> More than half of Americans would rather give up chocolate, alcohol and caffeine for a week before parting temporarily with their phones, according to a <a href="http://www.telenav.com/about/pr-summer-travel/report-20110803.html" target="_hplink">recent survey</a> by technology firm TeleNav.</blockquote>
<a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/mediamonkeyblog/2008/jan/10/facebookmoreaddictivethanp" target="_hplink">The Guardian reports</a> that a panel at a Citigroup conference in 2008 discussed an interesting correlation between high Facebook usage and low web traffic for adult websites: <blockquote>While causation is a tricky burden to prove, the theory goes that young people are too busy social networking to get, er... distracted by adult online content. Apparently when Facebook had server problems last year there was a corresponding spike up of users returning to look at adult content.</blockquote>
Gillmor Gang on Social Media
The Gillmor Gang discuss the progress and power of social media.
Certainly the hottest new social network, Pinterest doesn't have all the functions and features of Facebook quite yet -- basically, you're just posting photos to your different boards, which you can categorize by interest or hobby or whatever. You can also follow your friends' boards and comment on their pins. And that's it. Pinterest is a simple, visual concept that has a huge, vibrant community of active users. It <a href="http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/07/pinterest-monthly-uniques/" target="_hplink">hit 10 million users faster</a> than any other social network and is now the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/06/pinterest-traffic-growth_n_1408088.html" target="_hplink">third most popular social network</a> in America, trailing only Facebook and Twitter. <br> <br> You can <a href="http://pinterest.com/" target="_hplink">request an invitation to join Pinterest here</a>.
Tagged has a remarkably similar arc to Facebook: Also founded in 2004, and also originally tageted at young people, Tagged is now open to everyone and allows you to customize your profile, play games, message friends, post photos, and meet new people. It has more than 300 million users and more than twenty million monthly active users -- not too shabby, and perhaps worth a look if you want a robust Facebook alternative that's not going anywhere. To see what Tagged is all about, check out this video introduction for beginners. You can <a href="http://www.tagged.com/?" target="_hplink">sign up for Tagged here</a>.
Path is one of several new social networks that seeks to improve on Facebook by making the experience more private and personal: Users are limited to 150 friends on the mobile-only service. A user is instructed to only add his or her closest friends, or anyone you'd invite to your birthday party; the average Path user <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/business/path-familyleaf-and-pair-small-by-design-social-networks.html" target="_hplink">has 40 connections</a>. Path is sort of like a daily online journal that you open to your friends: You can post photos and videos using your smartphone's camera, update your location, share what songs you're listening to and more. Path has been praised for its intimate feeling and clean design. For more on this social network and its mission statement, check out the introductory YouTube video. (Ignore the Thai -- it's in English). <br> <br> You must have an iPhone or Android phone to participate in Path; a BlackBerry app is apparently on its way. Path has about a million active users, per a <em>recent <em>New York Times</em> article</em>.
Speaking of intimacy: Pair is a social network in which you can only have one connection, as its name implies. Pair is a sharing service for couples (or really good friends, I suppose), available on Android and iPhone. It takes privacy to the extreme: Pair calls itself a "timeline for just the two of you, where you can post cute video messages and photos that no one else will see." Your significant other may be forcing you to join it any day now. On Pair, you can share photos, videos, location, and to-do lists; you can also play Tic-Tac-Toe with one another and draw sketches in real-time. One of the most precious features of Pair is its "thumbprint" feature, on which you and your partner can virtually press your thumbs together. Like Pair as a whole, you will probably either find this adorable or schmaltzy. Path is available for free <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pair/id503663173?mt=8" target="_hplink">in iTunes</a> and <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tenthbit.juliet" target="_hplink">the Google Play store</a>.
The number of social networks based on your current location, and your proximity to other users of an mobile application, is on the rise. These "social-location-mobile" (SoLoMo) apps dominated the recent South by Southwest festival, and the app that got the most press was Highlight. Highlight is iPhone only, and the mobile app hooks up with your Facebook and notifies you when you are near a friend, or a friend of a friend, or another Highlight user with similar interests. You can view this person's Highlight profile, and if you're intrigued, you can message that person and perhaps make a new friend or connection. Highlight CEO Paul Davison explains the app to Anderson Cooper in the accompanying YouTube video. Highlight is <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/highlight/id441534409?mt=8" target="_hplink">available for free in iTunes</a>.
Circle is, like Highlight, an app that tells you who's around you; unlike Highlight, it has a very pleasant design and lots of options for what information you share publicly and who can see you. You sign up for Circle with your Facebook account; the iPhone-only app shows you when Facebook friends are nearby, and also when friends of friends are close. You can choose to toggle on and off public visibility, if you don't want to be visible to friends of friends. Your profile shows your different Facebook networks (your college, high school, hometown, etc.) and you also have a mini-bio with your name, relationship status and interests. All of this can be toggled on and off as well. Circle is available <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/circle-whos-around-you/id488720081?mt=8" target="_hplink">on iTunes</a>.
Another social location app for your iPhone, Kismet shows you who's around and lets you chat with your nearby neighbors; it also allows users to check in on Foursquare and see which other Kismet users are at their location. Kismet boasts a nice map view, which allows you to see a broad view of other Kismet users around you; there's also an invitation feature that allows you to invite your friends and other users to meet up at a certain place and certain time. You can <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kismet/id490929215?mt=8" target="_hplink">download Kismet for iPhone here</a>.
Our final SoLoMo app (and hopefully the last time I will ever have to write "SoLoMo" ever again) is Ban.jo, which differentiates itself by being available for iPhone AND Android AND on the web. Accessibility! Aside from cross-OS availability, Ban.jo is more of the same: See who's currently around you in list or map view, message nearby folks, check in and update LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook. Ban.jo is also the only one of these apps publicizing the number of users it has: Its press kit claims that Ban.jo has over one million users worldwide in 185 countries. You can download Ban.jo <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ban-jo/id417076117" target="_hplink">for the iPhone</a> or <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.banjo.android" target="_hplink">for Android</a>; you can also <a href="http://app.ban.jo/?__utma=18700074.216795228.1337200636.1337200636.1337200636.1&__utmb=18700074.4.10.1337200636&__utmc=18700074&__utmx=-&__utmz=18700074.1337200636.1.1.utmcsr=google|utmccn=(organic)|utmcmd=organic|utmctr=(not provided)&__utmv=-&__utmk=204321424" target="_hplink">try it out at Ban.jo's website</a>.
Nextdoor is a social network for neighbors and neighborhoods. You join with your home address and are immediately placed into a home neighborhood; all of your connections, and all the content you see in your feed, comes from those that live near you. You don't have to make your address visible to your neighbors, but you do have to verify that you live there with Nextdoor in order to use the site. After you join, using Nextdoor is like a mix of browsing Craigslist and using your community bulletin board. You can find out what's happening in your 'hood and get recommendations for different local businesses and services; there's also a classifieds section for buying and selling. You can check out Nextdoor's pitch in the accompanying video. You can <a href="http://nextdoor.com/" target="_hplink">sign up for Nextdoor for free here</a>.
A mobile app for Android and iPhone, Roamz brings in information from Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram and Facebook to let you know what cool stuff is happening around you -- "where the locals go," it claims. That's the real draw of Roamz. It's a social network where you can post status updates and photos and also get information about the places nearby. Check out a video for the app -- which its creators call "Social Googles for the Real World" -- on the left. You can download Roamz for <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/roamz/id459343660?mt=8" target="_hplink">free for iPhone</a> or <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.roamz.app&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImNvbS5yb2Ftei5hcHAiXQ.." target="_hplink">for Android</a>.