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Social network usage over Christmas

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Social networks allow you to connect with loved ones far away, make new friends, express your political or personal perceptions to all your “friends” in one small sentence, and market and carry out business in a wider, faster market.

Over Xmas, the internet will be humming, as people talk to family and view each other’s gifts and Xmas trees. But here are some western statistics that may make you ask yourself – do the benefits outweigh the risks?

This article is being re-published following reader feedback on the negative aspects of such use. One reader commented about recently visiting a well-known restaurant in Blantyre – and estimated that at least 30 percent of the clients eating there were on their smartphones at least once during their meal.

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Did you know that there are more than two billion active social media users worldwide, representing a global penetration rate of 28 percent? Social networking already accounts for 28 percent of all media time spent online, and users aged between 15 and 19 spend at least 3 hours per day on average using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

18 percent of social media users can’t go a few hours without checking Facebook, and 28 percent of iPhone users check their Twitter feed before getting up in the morning. Following such repetitive behaviour – social network addiction is becoming a recognized phenomenon. South Korea considers Internet addiction one of its most serious public health issues.

Using data from 2006, the South Korean government estimates that approximately 210,000 South Korean children are afflicted and require treatment. About 80 percent of those needing treatment may need psychotropic medications, and perhaps 20 percent to 24 percent require hospitalization. Current studies that seem to show that Facebook addiction activates the same areas of the brain as drugs.

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This has led to the new phrase – digital detoxing – where users suffering from digital overload look to refrain from using devices such as smartphones or computers for a period of time. Benefits include becoming more people orientated, lowered anxiety and more focus on real life. There are also claims that a lack of face to face contact can affect you both socially and physically.

Here are some more recent statistics – outlining the scale of the potential problem facing us all. Between 60 and 80 percent of users internet time at work have nothing to do with work. In America, it is estimated that an average worker spends nearly one quarter of their work day browsing social media for non-work related activities.1.23 billion users log in to the Facebook site for at least 17 minutes every day. Did you know that 5 million images are uploaded to Instagram daily?

In terms of productive hours – a lot of time is wasted by workers on non-work related issues. In Malawi with data capped internet services – not only does this result in loss of productivity from employees, but also increased bandwidth costs, or slow networks from such activity.

I have written before about how these abuses can be curtailed by the use of filtering apps and user training and IT policy enforcement. If you feel you have a problem personally, a suggestion is to carry out a digital detox. This means switching off all mobiles, smartphones, computers and tablets for a certain length of time.

Try 24 hours, if that is too long, or you are required to be online and accessible for work reasons, look at eight hours – I am talking about waking hours here! If you require to do a work detox, visit one of the sites on the internet, a good example is www.digitaldetox.org for further guidance. But scrutinise your own usage honestly and closely and aim to make your life healthier and more interactive. Are you seriously able to do without your phone for a day – just one day? Try it.

By the way – I will wish you’re a very happy and peaceful festive season here – but I have already done so on my Facebook page!

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