Addicted ... to Facebook
Updating their status. Posting pictures. Checking out the news feeds of their friends. It's all in a day's work for today's college students.
One-third of Christian college students spend 1-2 hours a day on Facebook, according to a new study from Gordon College professors. Twelve percent use Facebook for 2-4 hours each day, and 2.8 percent report using it from 4-7 hours a day. This is in addition to the time they spend on other forms of electronic media, such as blogs, Twitter, and the internet. And it doesn't even count the time they spend texting, talking, or using applications on their cell phones.
More than half of the students reported they were "neglecting important areas of their life" because they were spending too much time online. And when given the definition of addiction as "any behavior you cannot stop, regardless of the consequences," more than 10 percent said they believed they were in fact addicted to some form of electronic activity.
I teach several classes at a local Christian college, and I'm not surprised. Students text friends under the table during a lecture or class discussion. They post pictures, make plans with friends, begin and end romances on the internet. One student even dropped my class after I told her she wouldn't be allowed to bring her laptop along.
And I understand. I have my own Facebook account, multiple e-mail addresses, and a cell phone, all of which suck up my time. Controlling the amount of time I spend with social media is difficult for me, and I went to college when e-mail was fairly new. I can't imagine how much more difficult it is for students who are familiar with even more and better forms of technology.
"It isn't yet clear whether over-zealous use of computer-based activities will be formally accepted in the U.S. as a distinctive, unique form of addiction," said Bryan C. Auday, professor of psychology and one of the study's authors. "What is clear from our study is that a surprisingly high percentage of Christian students who frequently engage in electronic activities report several troubling negative consequences. But ironically they also mention many positive outcomes related to the time that is spent on Facebook or text messaging their friends."
Last Lent, I joined with many students on my campus in a Facebook fast. For 40 days, I didn't share how my day was going or check to see what my old college friends were doing for the weekend. Did I notice that I had more time to spend on worthwhile things? Absolutely. I had time to read, to talk to my husband, to play with my son, to read books for fun, to write, to think.
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