Saturday November 16, 2019

Beware, Facebook or social media addiction can trigger cocaine-like high

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New Delhi: If the researchers from California State University-Fullerton are to be believed, then we’ve found yet another reason to stay away from Facebook and other social media. The research concluded the fact that excessive usage of social media can be as dangerous as an addiction to cocaine or gambling.

They say social media obsession may lead to something akin to classical addiction. Such use triggers two key parts of the brain associated with rewards: The amygdala which is the integrative place for emotions, behaviour and motivation and the striatum- part of the forebrain and a critical component of the reward system.

The findings, recently published in the journal Psychological Reports: Disability and Trauma showed that social media-related “addictions” share some neural features with substance and gambling addictions.

Since the meteoric rise of the internet usage and emergence of various social media platforms, many young Indians have been left socially isolated and lonely.

It’s time for a reality check in our backyard.

Take Krishnan (name changed), a 15-year-old social media addict in the capital, who recently visited Dr Sameer Malhotra, director, mental health and behavioural sciences at Max Healthcare.

Hooked on to Facebook for nearly 16 hours a day, he had developed an obsessive personality profile and was neglecting priorities of life, including education.

“I have been seeing many youngsters who are in the grip of social media addiction. In the case of Krishnan, I treated him with both counselling and medication which helped channelise his energy in positive work,” Dr Malhotra told reporters.

“Facebook addiction is similar to cocaine addiction to a certain level as there are certain neurochemicals like dopamine which operate across brain reward pathways and are responsible for maintaining addictive behaviour,” he said.

According to Dr Malhotra, teenagers with Facebook addiction-like symptoms may “have a hyperactive amygdala-striatal system, which makes this ‘addiction’ similar to many other addictions.”

For Dr Samir Parikh, director of the department of mental health and behavioural Science, Fortis Healthcare, excessive use of social media is a common trend today and such preoccupation leads to an interference in one’s social, occupational as well as other areas of functioning.

“Yes, it could be considered similar to drug addiction to a certain level though it is not exactly the same. The difference is more in terms of the physiological manifestations involved in the influence of a substance,” Dr Parikh told reporters.

Addiction is defined as repetitive habit pattern that increases the risk of diseases or associated personal and social problems. It is a subjective experience of “loss of control”.

Addiction connotes dependence because there are common neurochemical and neuroanatomical pathways found among all addictions- whether it is substance, gambling, sex, eating, internet use or Facebook obsession.

“They all display similar patterns of behaviour like the inability to abstain, impairment in behaviour control, craving, diminished recognition of significant behavioural problems, interpersonal issues and a dysfunctional emotional response,” says Dr Birendra Yadav, psychology clinical operations at telehealth venture- Poccare, Healthenablr.

Experts say Facebook addiction can lead to impulse-control disorders, especially among adolescents where it has led to high prevalence of depression, aggressive behaviour and psychiatric symptoms.

The social media has also been found to have affected lifestyles, resulting in irregular dietary habits, decreased physical activity, short duration of sleep and increased use of alcohol and tobacco.

Is it true that getting out of Facebook addiction is easier than that of substance abuse?

“This is subjective and depends on the context, personality and state of mind of the individual concerned and you need to build the willpower of the person through both counselling and medication,” Dr Malhotra says.

“Overcoming any kind of addiction is possible with adequate professional interventions,” Dr Parikh said.

The bottom line: use social media, but do not let it take over your life. Investing time in “real” relationships rather than in the cyber world can lead to improved mental health, say experts. (Nishant Arora, IANS)

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According to Defence Experts, Better Social Media Usage can Prevent Hacking

Experts also believe that China poses the most imminent threat to India in hacking sensitive data in possession of defence forces through the use of malware and spyware installed on cheap smartphones

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Social Media
Social Media has become so embedded into our lives that it is difficult to restrain anyone from its use. Pixabay

The Indian Army’s recent directive to its personnel in critical posts to deactivate their Social Media accounts and not share official information on WhatsApp might only partly address the challenges posed by tech-based espionage activities, experts said here on Friday.

On the contrary, better education and training in Social Media usage, greater stress on switching over to homemade software and hardware, and adoption of best practices in cyber-hygiene, in line with advanced militaries across the globe, can go a long way in thwarting attempts at hacking to steal sensitive information, experts told IANS.

In addition, defence forces also face challenges of security vulnerabilities from spyware like Pegasus, which can track calls and read messages, if physically installed on smartphones, apart from phishing and attempts of ‘honeytrapping’.

Earlier this month, two soldiers of the Indian Army were held in a case of ‘honeytrapping’ by the intelligence wing of Rajasthan Police allegedly for sharing sensitive information with Facebook user ‘Sheerat’.

“Social media has become so embedded into our lives that it is difficult to restrain anyone from its use. The answer does not lie in banning the use of Facebook and WhatsApp alone. The soldiers can easily shift to other social media platforms like Telegram. Moreover, there are thousands of other apps available for everyday use. These apps have the threat potential to be used for hacking into a smartphone. The answer lies in better training in cybe- hygiene and data privacy that would enable a user to take a call on what not to post, what to post and even avoid phishing,” former Northern Army Commander, Lt Gen D.S. Hooda (retd) told IANS.

Experts also believe that China poses the most imminent threat to India in hacking sensitive data in possession of defence forces through the use of malware and spyware installed on cheap smartphones. “There should be more emphasis on usage of indigenously developed software and hardware,” added Hooda.

China itself had taken a lead in avoiding social media misuse by its armed forces personnel when it directed for the installation of special software on People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers to prevent hacking.

“All devices used by PLA soldiers should be installed with special software created by the army’s IT experts and domestic mobile operators, so their activities can be closely monitored by the army’s newly established internet administration centres,” the Hong Kong-based English daily South China Morning Post reported in April 2016, quoting the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily.

Social Media
The Indian Army’s recent directive to its personnel in critical posts to deactivate their Social Media accounts and not share official information on WhatsApp might only partly address the challenges posed by tech-based espionage activities. Pixabay

“The software aims to filter all ‘unhealthy and negative messages’ that could harm the army’s political spirit and morale, curb access to sensitive information that might lead to leaking of military intelligence,” the People’s Daily report said. It also tracks off-duty officers in case they visit ‘unwanted places’,” the South China Morning Post further reported.

However, the decision to ban the use of social media to share “official information” has been seen as a step in the right direction by defence experts.

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“It is possible for inimical elements to open fictitious accounts to communicate with those privy to sensitive official information. It is possible for data to be extracted from Chinese smartphones. Though communicating with the use of social media platforms cannot be stopped, sharing of official information through these channels should be put to an end,” said former Director-General of Information Systems, Army, Lt Gen Prakash Katoch (retd). (IANS)