The term “social networking” was coined in the early nineties as a way to categorize online discussion forums, message boards, bulletin boards, and web 2.0 sites. Social media are online interactive technologies which enable the generation or sharing/ exchange of ideas, interests, thoughts, and various forms of expression through virtual communities and online networks. The Internet has become a medium for social interaction through websites such as MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Friendster, and Orkut.
In recent years, it has become popular for business professionals and organizations to use these tools for business development purposes. Businesses have recognized the potential of social networking, especially the social networking platforms on Facebook and Twitter, to leverage their existing marketing mix. Organizations are recognizing the value in investing in time spent on developing social networking profiles. It can also save substantial amounts of money. Additionally, companies are finding that social networking serves as a platform for their internal communication, as well as a means to provide greater access to their customers and provide product information.
However, the potential abuse of social networks by an addict can lead to serious mental health problem if the user is not careful. Many times, a person who uses Facebook or another such site is not thinking about the behavior or the consequences. Instead, the user may be thinking only about their own pleasure and contentment. They are not aware of the ramifications of their actions. For example, a Facebook profile with numerous pictures and comments about food can lead to depression and eating disorders.
Another factor about the addictive tendencies of social networking is that many times the user has developed a special set of friends, or is involved in frequent contact with people who share the same interests. When one of these friends takes offense at something the user has done or said, the user can develop intense feelings of shame and guilt. The user then seeks to escape their own reality and spend time with those people who share similar interests so they will not feel guilty for their behavior.
Online social networks provide the perfect opportunity for users to create virtual friendships that last a lifetime. Unfortunately, the same virtual friendship can quickly turn sour when one member loses interest in the other or becomes angry and mentions legal issues, conflicts, or other sensitive issues. While the Internet provides great opportunities for virtual friendships, it also provides the potential for virtual worlds based on real-life scenarios. As research continues to examine the impact of social media on society, it is unclear whether or not the virtual communities we have created on the Internet can be called real-life communities.
Finally, the use of social networking sites by minors is becoming an even more problematic issue. Although the average age of users increases each year, the number of teenagers who spend excessive time online continues to increase as well. The fact that teenagers will spend three to four hours a day online has implications for society because it means they are becoming increasingly isolated and there is an increased likelihood that the “bad apple” will attract others who share the same moral problems and online behaviors. Moreover, there is a strong likelihood that the child spends time on the site without the parental controls on the software that are designed to prevent underage access. These sites are being used by people who have serious sexual intention; however, they are not being used by good kids.
Therefore, even though social networking sites were initially designed to be beneficial for those who had little to do with the actual business of the site, there is a significant impairment of societal norms when excessive use is demonstrated by the users. This is why it is necessary to address this problem as early as possible. In the case of teenage use, it is especially important to take action immediately. For instance, if a child spends a significant amount of time on a site that is dedicated to discussing drugs or alcoholism, they should be alerted. If the child is aware that they are doing so, they may be more likely to resist pressure from friends or peers to participate in these discussions.
The social networking sites may thus constitute an important trigger mechanism for those with internet addiction tendencies. Those with internet addiction may thus exacerbate their problems through the use of social media. The internet addiction expert team at the Addiction Treatment Center of Dallas-Fort Worth has identified some of the ways that this sort of online interaction may exacerbate the addiction. In a case where there is the presence of betrayal, for example, the presence of a parent or significant other can exacerbate the situation. When the parent or significant other knows that the addict has become depressed, they may then attempt to help facilitate the depression.