A SMET addiction exists for three reasons. First, it’s extremely hard to resist engaging, and SMET has potentially harmful effects, the second reason. Finally, SMET provides opportunities for denying an addiction.
Social media is hard to resist because we enjoy sharing our stories. It stimulates the same reward systems as sex, food and money do. Additionally, we get rushes from simply checking our social media, emails and texts. As “The Selfish Meme” (The Atlantic, October 2012 edition) explains:
Like playing a slot machine, engaging in these activities sends the animal brain into a frenzy as it anticipates a possible reward: often nothing, but sometimes a small prize, and occasionally an enormous jackpot.
SMET problems arrive as decreased efficiency, productivity, effectiveness and happiness. “Fix This Workplace” (Bloomberg Businessweek) and “Slaves to the Smartphone” (The Economist, March 10, 2012 edition) are representative of the increasing number of articles reporting emails decreasing our efficiency and productivity. The distractions they and all of SMET create reduce our effectiveness and creativity.
In regards to happiness, we are happiest when we interact with people in the same space. A correlation exists between happiness and number of in-person interactions. SMET reduces the reasons for meeting in that same space. Despite the dramatic increase in our interconnectivity with people around the world, loneliness has increased just as dramatically (“Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?”, The Atlantic, May 2012 edition).
This leads directly into the third reason SMET is an addiction. It deludes us into thinking we are connecting and interacting healthily thus providing plenty of opportunities for denial.
Solutions not only include transferring SMET time to in-person interactions, but also to more sidebar interactions with those online. It means sharing confidences and avoiding the superficial, Pollyannaish-speak indicative of social media. In other words, it means being human.