Stop Tweeting Long Enough to See If You're Addicted

By Patrick Healy
|  Thursday, May 12, 2011  |  Updated 9:58 AM PDT
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Some say social networking can be addictive.  Certainly many find the continuous reinforcement hard to resist.

Patrick Healy, Sergio LeLevier, Fabian Rodriguez and Scott Spiro

Some say social networking can be addictive. Certainly many find the continuous reinforcement hard to resist.

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Actually, the fact you've made it this far into the first sentence without glancing at your Twitter feed is a good sign. Stay with us. Resist temptation. Diagnosis ahead.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders may not have an entry yet for "Twitter Addiction," but any social networker can recognize the symptoms. Of course, lists of specific indications are easily obtained simply by Googling "Addicted to Twitter," which will yield countless variations on the theme "You know you're addicted to Twitter when..."

"You tweet about what you're eating, while you're eating it," is Lauren Dugan's No. 11 on her "50 Signs You're Addicted to Twitter" posted on MediaBistro's Alltwitter. "You share more emotions on Twitter than with your significant other" ranks No. 46.

You now have permission to open up your Twitter page and  immediately search for "Addicted to Twitter." You'll find there is a certain poignancy to these tweets. "Is there anyone else that thought
Twitter was stupid 'til they started using it and then became addicted to it," tweets rts3210.  MandieHawbaker laments, "I didn't think I could get addicted to Twitter, until I got one."

And then there's the touching bravado of belieber8228:  "alrightt guys im loggin off my laptop...and on my itouch (: haha im #addicted to twitter." (The dancing video that belieber8228 loaded as his thumbnail image may have been the first tip-off...)

Actually, addicted is probably too strong a word in most cases. But, the psychologist who runs the Center for Internet Behavior says sometimes social media "abuse" does rise to that level.

"You have to teach them to use it in a more moderated way and how  they're managing their emotions and numbing themselves by using the technology just like they would use a drug or alcohol," said psychologist David Greenfield, PhD, of Hartford, Conn., where he spoke with the local NBC Station.

But unlike drugs and alcohol, social media networking has become an increasingly essential tool in many professional lives.

"You're doing yourself a disservice if you're not at least on Twitter to expose yourself to a kind of personal alert system of what's going on in your field," said Jake Batsell, now a professor digital journalism at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Altadena-based writer Patricia Bunin resisted signing up for Facebook until a year ago, but now finds it indispensable for writing her weekly column, Senior Moments.

"I always used to laugh before I went on Facebook at all these people who say, 'Oh, I just stay on all the time.' ( I thought) 'Well, that's a real waste of time.' Now, when I'm writing, I have Facebook open and it's just sort of lowered on the page so I can keep bipping it up."

And yet, even the most disciplined social networker can be distracted by the endless stream of information and interaction that smart phones have put within reach at any time, almost anywhere you are.

"Sometimes, you do have to disengage," advises social media strategist Teri Thompson, co-author of "The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing."

Thompson advises those who social network for business to stay focused on their goals, or risk time-sucking excursions.

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