Social networks as recreational drugs

This morning I had cause to look at Tim Carmody’s tweetstream. Man, that cat can tweet. Anyway, it got me thinking about whether you might be able to categorize social networks according to their resemblance to recreational drugs. If a sharing site were an abusable substance, which abusable substance would it be?

Here’s my first cut:

Twitter = Black Beauties

[symptoms of abuse: hyperactivity; increased awareness of surroundings; increased interest in repetitive or normally boring activities; decreased appetite; decreased ability to sleep*]

Facebook = Pot

[symptoms of abuse: red, watery eyes; fuzzy-mindedness; inexplicable laughter; weight gain; self-absorption; suspicious changes in friendships]

Pinterest = Quaaludes

[symptoms of abuse: slowed heart rate; drowsiness; indiscriminate displays of affection; regrettable decisions; stupidity]

YouTube = Cocaine

[symptoms of abuse: dilated pupils; accelerated heart rate; public blathering; manic episodes; impotence]

MySpace = LSD

[symptoms of abuse: colorful hallucinations; bad taste in clothes; psychosis]

Google+ = Ambien

[symptoms of abuse: sleep, drooling]

7 thoughts on “Social networks as recreational drugs

  1. Robert Hodges

    You have so nailed this analogy. Here’s a related prediction: eventually some parents will wake up to the effects of social networks on analytical skills and start to send their kids to unwired high schools. The new “classical curriculum” will stress intellectual development using an ancient and time-proven tool: books.

  2. Bobcorrick

    Interesting. I followed your reference to Sherry Turkle at the end of The Shallows, then saw this post. In her “Alone Together” TEDx talk Sherry Turkle cautions against using the analogy of addiction for (ab)use of social media. (I’m not saying that you are making the same analogy.)

    The point Ms Turkle is making is that the remedy for addiction would be removal, as Robert Hughes is suggesting in “unwired” schools. If we use the “recreational” analogy, we may come up with better answers for education, in which social media play a role. Online communication isn’t going to go away any time soon.

  3. Chris Nahr

    I would protest your characterization of Google+ but I’m feeling too drowsy right now.

  4. Nick Carr

    I’ve dropped my Google+ account – I suddenly realized that in 30 years Larry Page will look exactly like Big Brother in that old Apple ad – but when I was a member my favorite thing about it was the grogginess it induced. If the web is kindergarten, Google+ is nap time.

  5. Seth Finkelstein

    @Robert Hodges – “The new “classical curriculum” will stress intellectual development using an ancient and time-proven tool: books.”

    What are these newfangled devices “books” of which you speak? They are dumb, mute things. The proper “classical curriculum” is walking around with tutors, i.e. other human beings. How can you propose to educate our precious young with dead, stiff, unresponsive bits of technology? For heaven’s sake man, don’t you know IT CHANGES THEIR BRAINS!!! Oh woe, that you should imply such cold unliving modernity is the future of education.

  6. Gegoth


    A few nights ago in my Computer Ethics class we discussed that cell phones, especially smart phones, are used as crutches in social situations or even if you just have a moment to yourself. I know that when i’m waiting in line or have a minute to myself I will take out my phone and check my texts and my facebook. I agree and think that there are too many similarities between social networks and drugs.

    Do you find yourself looking at your phone or device in these situations too?

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