Twitter, Heroin and Time-Warping

Heroin bottle

Image via Wikipedia

Do you Twitter? Does Twitter distract you from your goals, endpoints and purposes? When using Twitter, do you lose your sense of time? Do you feel brain-drained from too much tweeting or not enough? Simple question: Are you addicted to Twitter?

Being fully engaged in any activity and feeling a sense of well-being or losing your sense of time doesn’t mean that you’re addicted. You simply could be in a state of optimal psychology referred to as Flow, a state of mind in which your skills increasingly match the challenges you face.

Whenever we experience pleasure – whether from a complement or a warm emotion or an achievement – our brains generate a remarkable cascade of bio-chemical reactions. The sense of euphoria, no matter how short or long, reinforces our desire to re-create the experience. Blogging, for example, can be a healthy release if done right.

Chemically-induced pleasures, such as those produced by drugs like heroin, easily create life-long cycles of addiction. Heroin is evil: and yet millions of good people lose themselves to it’s near-instant addiction.

Authentic experiences that require focused effort usually don’t result in addiction. Constantly refining your blogging skills, for example, can produce a euphoric state of flow without the side effect of addiction. When a behavior that doesn’t require much investment of effort but creates a chemical high, the behavior can easily transform from a healthy activity into an addiction.

Research has shown conclusively that email can be addictive. It stands to reason, then, that Twitter too can become the object of an addiction. So, how do you know if you’ve crossed from simply being a focused Twitterer in Flow into being addicted to Twitter?

An old and fairly reliable test of addiction is a clinical tool: CAGE. There are other tools which doctors and nurses use in assessing addiction, but CAGE is popular and simple. CAGE is an acronym for the following four questions:

  1. Cut down – Do you ever feel that you should cut down your tweeting?
  2. Annoyed – If someone asked you to cut down tweeting, would you get annoyed?
  3. Guilty – Have you ever felt guilty about your use of Twitter?
  4. Eye opener – Do you HAVE to tweet shortly after getting out of bed (or before)?

Now, I admit, it may sound laughable to think of Twitter as producing an unhealthy addiction. Social media addiction has received a fair amount of attention. JW Saas has an amusing blog about the problem, with an entertaining focus on Twitter. The fact is, however, our brains are wired – in varied ways – to become easily addicted to almost anything.

I predict that as we all adopt new social media tools while our world becomes increasingly reliant to electrons for our fundamental need to connect with on another, that we will all run greater risks for addictive behaviors. If you sincerely believe in the power of social media strategies to change the world for the better, then you should consider the risk of our addiction to these tools to be an important part of our ongoing social media conversation.

Why should we be afraid to discuss this? If we value the truth then fear of the truth is never a rational fear.

I love to use Twitter. Lately it’s become a sort of Social RSS for me: I can connect with good people, exchange ideas and experiences and follow leads to a disparate pool of useful or entertaining information.

Still, I find myself every now and again in a time warp: in short, I lose time and I lose focus on my goals. They aren’t major disruptions, just an interesting phenomenon. Fortunately, I always assess where I am, close up shop and return to my work and life.

If you enjoy Twitter wouldn’t you want to know that your enjoyment is real and not an addiction? There’s a lot of Twitter-heroin and time-warping in those 140 characters, isn’t there?

What about you? Do you find Twitter addictive? Can you honestly ask yourself the CAGE questions? What do you do to check your tweeting routines? Does this post help you? Or am I totally off-base and Twitter has no potential to cause any harm?

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10 Comments

  1. I'm annoyed that I even have to consider the idea that something so wonderful could be an “addiction”. I'm working on my eighteenth year of recovery.. and I don't “need” another challenge. Damn you twitter! 🙂

    I love the instant gratification of twitter. It's human nature. Heck “we're all gonna die sometime”. Oh.. maybe that excuse does not work with this type of addiction.

    Seriously though.. twitter is so natural… how can something natural be wrong?

  2. too funny! well, Twitter Deflowered lightens things up a bit (the post after
    this one).

    Thanks for stopping by. Consider TwitAnon if you run into trouble. 🙂

  3. I just use twitter when I can't come up with a good blog post…

    Or when I should be studying…

    Or when I should be asleep….

    Ok, hi. My name is trauma junkie, and I'm addicted to Twitter.
    (Well not yet; I've only been on there for three days.)

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