Are social networks creating a generation of techno addicts?

 In social media

Last week I was asked by Sky News to provide comment on the issue of “Techno addiction”, as a result of a report by Northampton University, where a study of 1,200 people carried out by Professor Nada Kakabadse highlighted the effects of social networks on young people and claims “up to a third are addicted” to technology and social networks.

According to the Northampton University report, the study also revealed that almost 50% of the respondents use work computers for personal reasons. An overwhelming 70% of technically savvy people admit to spending up to 24% of their time browsing the internet for personal reasons, although in interview, many stated there were also some work related reasons for doing so.

”Shockingly,” states Dr. Nada Kakabadse, Professor in Management and Business Research at Northampton Business School, ”over 70% of the respondents in one segment indicated that they spend up to 50% of their working day accessing social network sites such as Facebook and MySpace to satisfy their social/personal needs.”

Susan Bailey of Northampton Business School said “‘we were somewhat surprised by the results!”

My counter response as can be seen towards the end of the video piece is that we need to learn how to filter this information, and there are some simple tricks to help avoid being overwhelmed by information from social and business networks.

One of the simplest tricks was shared on twitter by Amelia Torode (@amelia_torode) who explained in a tweet and also on her blog how turning off the “you’ve got mail” flashing light on her blackberry has “changed her life”.

I’ve been using email since 1981 – when it was called a Bulletin Board Service (BBS), and have been on the internet since 1994 so I am well aware of how information can overload you if you let it.

One of my simple tips for reducing email overload is to set up rules in Outlook (menu: tools>rules and alerts) to deliver email from people or groups of people to specified folders.

As you can see on the left, my email rules tell me which folders have new mail (in bold) and they also automatically file things for me.  I try and never have more than 20 items in my inbox – the rest are in folders, actioned or deleted.

I also use the amazing Xobni (inbox backwards) client to help me find email I have filed.

I used to read multiple RSS feeds from blogs I was interested.  Now I find myself “dipping in” to twitter when on the mobile, and using the Nokia twitter client Gravity to “clip” articles of interest shared by my followers to my Instapaper account – for later reading when I have a moment.

What do you think?  Are you letting social networks run your life or are they helping you be more connected and productive?  Leave a comment below or send me a message on twitter @andrewgrill

About 

Futurist Keynote Speaker and former IBM Global Managing Partner, Andrew is a popular and sought-after presenter and commentator on issues around digital disruption and emerging technologies. He is a multiple TEDx & International Keynote Speaker. Watch his speaking showreel here, enquire about availability & fees here or listen to his latest Podcast - "The Practical Futurist Podcast" on your favourite app.

Showing 3 comments
  • Stephen Waddington

    Its PR stunt, of course, aimed at getting brand visiability for Northampton University aligned to social media. But that makes it no less a serious topic.

    I’m always surprised by the number of people at galleries or gigs, who rather than looking at art or chilling out and listening to the music, click-away tweeting and texting on their mobiles. Great that we share, but surely that erodes the original authentic experience?

  • In the past week or so I have been blogging about another Sigel Press Special Report on Techno Addicts (this time secondary school pupils) by the same authors.
    http://wishfulthinkinginmedicaleducation.blogspot.com/2009/09/tech-addiction-harms-learning-really.html
    The science in the report was woeful.
    Have you actually read the report you quote here? I wonder if it is a similar standard to the other but I do not particularly want to have to spend $24.99 more to find out.
    The press release from Cranfield University contains the gem that this study “reveals that one in three people in the world admit to being addicted to technology”. Wonderful! They interviewed everyone in the world.

    I wondered why any academic would put their name to work so poor but I guess that Stephen Waddington is right and that it is just a PR stunt. Why do the press respond so naively then?

  • Charles Frith

    The answer has to be yes. But it destroys the notion that all addictions are harmful I used to read boring books, watch crap TV and now I’m an social info junkie and happy with it. I’m also addicted to air, freshly baked bread, cooked breakfasts with black pudding, sex and sleep but nobody ever has a problem with those.

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