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Baylor's Jim Roberts Helps Gauge Social Media Addiction

November 7, 2016

Yes, you spend a lot of time on social media. You might even check your phone every few minutes to see how many people have liked your latest Facebook post. But are you addicted? And even if you are, what’s the big deal?

“Our devotion to technology and social media has changed how we interact with others, and that’s not necessarily a good thing,” said James Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business. “Yes, there are advantages to technology. But our obsession with smartphones and the lives we live via our social media channels can come at a cost to our real-life relationships.”

Roberts is known internationally for his research on smartphone addiction and how technology (smartphones, specifically) affects relationships and stress levels. He is the author of the book “Too Much of a Good Thing: Are you Addicted to your Smartphone?”

James Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing in Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business

Roberts explained that substance and behavioral addictions have six core components: salience, euphoria, tolerance, conflict, withdrawal symptoms and relapse. He provides six questions and statements people can use to gauge each of those components and help them understand whether their attachment to social media could be an addiction.

1. Salience: Is your social media use deeply integrated into your daily life?

I use social media like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or Pinterest throughout the entire day.

2. Euphoria: Do you depend on social media use for excitement throughout the day?

I use social media when I am bored or alone.

3. Tolerance: Do you need to spend more time to get a “buzz” from social media?

I find myself using social media more and more.

4. Withdrawal symptoms: Do you get nervous when you are not on social media?

I’m afraid of missing out on something important when I am not on social media.

5. Conflict: Does your use of social media cause you trouble?

My social media use has caused conflict with my friends, distracted me in class or while at work.

6. Relapse: have you tried to cut-back on your use of social media but failed?

I have tried to cut back on my time on social media, but it didn’t last very long.

“If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to three or more of these questions, you might need to reconsider your use of social media,” Roberts said. “But don’t worry too much, though. There’s still hope.”

Roberts said the trick to loosening social media’s grip on your life is to find a “digital sweet spot” where you are still connected but you have carved out time for the things that really matter.

“You, your relationships and community are the bedrocks of living a happy and meaningful life,” he said. “They are also the first things that suffer when our lives get out of balance.”

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