Our lives as social media ‘addicts’

By Pelumi Oyinlola Adewale

His name is Daniel Adeagbor. A civil engineering intern with a Lagos-based company, he confessed to Saturday Sun that he spends at least 13 hours daily on browsing social media platforms on his phone. Though he is happy and feels fulfilled doing that, everyday, he didn’t sound quite so when he narrated a funny incident of how the ‘addiction’ made him read a wrong Bible passage, one particular day. A somewhat religious fellow, this mistake, he believes, denied him a visa to Canada.

His story: ‘There was this seven-day programme my church held in 2019. It was like a revival, and it happened in the evening. On the last day, we took water to church as instructed. And, after praying on the water, the pastor asked us to take it home, and by 12 midnight, recite Psalm 12 over it. It is only after that we could drink it and bathe with the rest. But there was this group chat my classmates opened. I didn’t know when I became so engrossed in it that I chatted till 1.20am before I remembered what we were asked to do. Actually, I had applied for a study visa to Canada. Immediately, I hurried and read Psalm 21 over the water, and, afterward drank and bathed with it. I was already through when I remembered that I read the wrong psalm. Omo, na so chat spoil my luck for me. Who knows, by now I would have been in Canada.”

As it is, Adeagbor is not the only youngster affected by the social media craze. There is also Adeola Mofijioluwa Mary. She is a master’s degree student at the University of Lagos. She confessed that she too cannot do without scrolling through social media pages or platforms. “If I am not on Instagram then I am on WhatsApp or Tik Tok,” she said. “I spend nothing less than seven hours. If there is data, light and Wi-Fi then I don’t see why I won’t be online.”

She also related an incident in which she got her fingers burnt by the addiction. “There was this day we were meant to defend our jury (a project architecture students defend). But before that day, I encountered an extremely funny skit maker on Instagram and decided to continue to watch from where I stopped the previous night. I wasn’t going to jury that day, so I decided to relax and watch without the supervisors finding out. But unfortunately they noticed that I was chuckling anyhow while watching others present. At a point, I laughed out loud and everyone looked at me. Then the female supervisor got mad and said since I was laughing, it meant I was done with mine and asked me to come and present. But unfortunately for me I was only halfway done. That was how I ridiculed myself before the whole class because what I said that day was complete nonsense and everybody was laughing at me.”

Shittu Titilola, a student, shared a story of how she burnt her rice while warming it on the fire, and at the same time, scrolling through her social media platforms. In the course of it all, she lost concentration, and got the rice so badly burnt that no one could take a spoonful out of it. “I am like 70 per cent crazy about social media,” she told Saturday Sun. “I find myself on social media more often than normal because I have a lot of things I do there. I have never really calculated how long I spend online but I can say I spend about eight hours a day. I cannot do without having data on my phone. But if I plan to get serious with something, I always get distracted. I’ve tried to put a limit to it but things are not working out the way I expect. I am always with my phone and scrolling through various social media pages to keep track of things. Apart from the rice warming incident, I have burnt food countless times because of phone scrolling.”


Our unpleasant experiences

Ekegbo James, a youth corps member who confessed to spending about 20 hours a day on ‘phone browsing,’ remembered, regretfully, how the addiction affected his academic performance while on campus. “During my school days, whenever we were given a class or take-home assignment, I usually didn’t do them because I was always with my phone. By the time I was done with browsing, it would be about midnight. And, because I had to go to school the following day, I would sleep immediately and leave my assignment undone till I get to school. In the class, I would collect from someone that had done it and copy what he or she did. That made me a very lazy student.”

But if you think that the experience would cure James of the ‘addiction’, then you’d be wrong. “I am so addicted that if my phone goes off as a result of low battery, I will definitely look for a way to charge it because I really need to be online,” he said. “Most times, during family meetings, I spend time with my phone in such a way that makes my dad mad. But although I might keep it away for a while to assuage his anger, I am sure to bring it out after few minutes. I don’t think I can go through a day without it. I spend about 20 hours on Facebook, WhatsApp or the likes and the remaining four hours to sleep or charge my phone if it is switched off.”

Others who have had unpleasant experiences from their addiction to social media chats and browsing include: Oladapo Victor, a masters’ degree student of architecture, with Caleb University, Lagos, Oladeinde Omidiji, a psychiatrist; Omolayo Toluwalope, a final year student in a private university in Lagos; an employee with an outfit, who did not want both his name and that of his company mentioned.

Oladapo, who claims to spend not less than 20 hours a day on social media, recalled one incident he said he would always remember whenever people talk about the effect of social media addiction. “On that particular day, our client called to ask me to send some documents,” he recounted. “But immediately after his call, I forgot whatever he said and went back to watching videos on Instagram.”

Oladeinde: “There was a time I was transferred to a hospital in India to work and visited their psychiatric home. But while there, I got carried away with messages on Twitter and ended up triggering a patient I was asked to look after or watch. It took a whole team of security personnel, psychiatrists and visitors to help me with the outcome. Since then, I don’t press phone at work. But I am really crazy about the social media. I spend a good amount of time on the accounts. I am addicted because anytime I don’t have data on my phone, I feel somehow and when the data comes, it becomes very hard to leave the platform I am on.”

Omolayo: “I am a very depressed person and I take pills regularly in order to manage my depression. But there were days I forgot because social media were burning with interesting trending topics. One day, while cooking, I ended up burning the rice to crisp. It was God that helped me not burn down my parents’ house. I later realised that I have over-exceeded my stay off limit on the pills. Then I got really depressed and ended up hurting myself. And, it landed me in hospital.”

The unnamed company employee: “My most striking experience was when I was still working with one company. There was this day I was called into the Human Resources department, alongside some of my colleagues. We were all nervous because we knew that nothing good came out of visiting the HR of that company. To ease tension, I decided to browse through my social media. While at it, I saw one very funny video. This I shared with my colleagues and all of us burst into laughter. Unfortunately for us, it was at that point that the HRM (Human Resources Manager) walked in and got pissed off that we were watching a skit on our phones. Incidentally, she had called us to give us a query on why we were always using our phones during work time. So, at the end of the ordeal, we got double punishment.”


Effect on family relationship

One area the addiction is thought to be taking a great toll on users is maintenance of family bond and relationship. A study conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation, a United States-based organisation shows that unlike in time past when families would sit around a fire, talking or playing a board game, and thus help to strengthen bonds and relationships, social media addiction makes victims self-centred and withdrawn to their own world. In other words, it breaks down family communication. The study noted: “When children are on their (phone) screens, they are losing out on interpersonal relationship skills. Screen time can lead to obesity, difficulty focusing, and maintaining relationships.”

Almost everybody interviewed by Saturday Sun agrees with the findings of the study especially on family inter-personal relationships. Asked whether the addiction, in anyway, affects his relationship with his family, Adeagbor retorted: “My family? Make dem no just near me when I dey para (browse). I am less interested in their company.”  “I prefer staying alone and spending time on my phone than doing so with family or friends,” Adeola confessed.

For Ekegbo, “I prefer staying alone with my phone than staying with family and friends.  But I do keep in touch with family members on WhatsApp and the ones that are not on WhatsApp. I also find time to call them.” Ibirogba Abiola, a Bureau De Change operator: “I spend more time on social media than I do with my family because social media understand me better than everyone else, in that they know what to bring to my feed every day.” “I found out that sometimes, people, I mean my online friends understand me more than my parents,” Omoloyo reported.

And Oladapo noted: “One day, after I finished watching a touching video of people neglecting their parents and living life to the fullest on Instagram, I realised that I had not been spending time with my family. So I ended up creating a little time to balance up things.”


Deliverance? No, thanks

But if you think these social media addicts would be willing to undergo a ‘deliverance’ session so they could be cured of their addiction, you would be wrong. ‘No, thanks! We are just okay with the phenomenon.’ That, in a nutshell, is the message they wanted Saturday Sun to send out to concerned critics.

As far as they are concerned, there is no cause for alarm. “It is just a way to connect with. other people, to catch fun and meet old friends,” Oladapo argued. “It also helps you to sell your business.” Ibirogba agreed. “Me and social media are like five and six because there is nothing you need to do that you cannot do online,” he lectured. “I spend nothing less than 23 hours a day on social media, so basically, I spend all my day on social media. Sometimes, I don’t sleep because I follow updates on forex on these platforms.

“If you need entertainment, go online. If you need to learn something, go on Google; if you need video tips on something, go on Youtube. If you need ideas, go on Pinterest. If you need to buy food, clothes or anything, order on Instagram. You don’t even need to go through the stress of going out of your house to do any of those things. Life is made easy now by social media.”

Oladapo who claims to be addicted to Instagram, snapchat, Tik Tok daily said he uses them to check contents from other people. “I rarely post,” he announced. “So if you see me on social media, it is for entertainment. I find peace in what I do. I see interactions on them as a way of staying connected with other people and having fun. They help me get away from certain moods and feelings. Sometimes, browsing through them helps to lighten my mood whenever I am down. I see social media as a memory eraser because whenever I am browsing, I forget about everything else, especially the bad and ugly.”

Omolayo said she would burst into tears if she were to lose any of her accounts. “Social media is a huge part of my everyday routine,” she explained. “I make use of them every day. To be honest with you, I know a lot of things I didn’t know before, thanks to social media. And, I always like to see what is going on online.”

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