When Social Networking and Gaming Become a Problem
By Sara Selvoski and Wendy Seegers, UW Colleges AODE Program
Social networking and video games can seem like a good way to unwind after a long day, or something to do when hanging out with friends. Unfortunately, there is a growing trend among students who overuse these tools; and it can lead to devastating results that seriously impact grades and academic performance.
Americans, on average, spend 16 minutes of every hour online on social networking sites. Of 219 undergraduate and graduate who were surveyed, it was found that the GPA's of Facebook users typically averaged a full grade point lower than nonusers. However, seventy-nine percent of student Facebook members did not believe there was any connection between their GPAs and their networking habits.
Too much time on Facebook isn't the only area of concern for students. A 2005 study done by researchers at Hammersmith Hospital in London found that dopamine, a mood regulating hormone associated with feelings of pleasure, doubled while playing video games. The findings suggested that gaming can be chemically addictive and the addictive potential increases the more a person plays.
Warning signs that you may be spending too much time gaming/online can include:
1. Losing track of time (or spending more time than you intend) online. This can result in having trouble completing tasks for school or work, losing sleep, or being late for other commitments.
2. Lying, being defensive, or feeling guilty about your computer use. If a friend or family member has commented on your overuse, it might be time to re-evaluate your habits.
3. Feeling a sense of euphoria, rush, or intense satisfaction while involved in internet/gaming activities that you don't experience in other areas of your life. Intentionally engaging in online activities as a way to feel better or to manage life may be a sign of a problem. Likewise, if you feel discontented, anxious, restless or preoccupied when you aren't online, these may also be signs of a growing problem.
4. Spending more money that you can afford on in app purchases, online services, gambling, equipment, upgrades etc.
There are some underlying reasons why video gaming and social media sites can be addicting. Games are meant to challenge and engage us. Getting high scores, beating the game or other players, in game discoveries, and exploring fantasy are all ways to get sucked in. Social media hinges on "friends", relationships (real or created), and an online persona that can be ever-changing. Social networking and tweeting feeds our desire to have a voice and be heard and to be engaged in a larger social circle. In order to keep balance in "real life", we need to set limits and have realistic expectations about how these products and services can be a positive addition to our lives but not over-take them.
If you'd like more information about these issues, go to www.uwc.edu/aode, or contact your campus mental health counselor.