The ease of internet access worldwide has made it one of the most popular medium of seeking information and for communication (Ramamohanarao et al, 2007). The internet is now very vital in the modern world. It has become an important instrument in education and social life such that it is gradually becoming indispensable in the daily life of many people (Pew Internet Research, 2004). The internet is a highly enlightening and entertaining medium, therefore people engage in several activities on it; some of which may be potentially addictive. One of such activities is the use of social media (Kuss & Griffiths 2011).
The introduction of social media in the last decade has largely attracted many people. This has therefore shifted their focus from mainly using just traditional media and traditional forms of social networking for social interaction (globalwebindex, 2015). The mass appeal of social media could be an issue of concern, especially with regards to the steady increase in the time users spend online. Also, the qualities of social media make it a desirable escape for many of these people increasing their dependency on it; thereby contributing to the growth of the social media addiction phenomenon worldwide (Brewer, 2013).
Overview of social media
Social media has become a global phenomenon and a very important means of communication among peers, families and all manner of persons.
Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, instagram, LinkedIn and mobile instant messaging services (IM) such as WhatsApp, Viber and IMO and video calling services like Skype have become a popular means of communication in the past few years. Statistics show that active
social media users the world over are estimated at about two thousand two hundred and six billion, a global diffusion of 30% which is a rise in number of users by about one hundred and seventy-six Million users in the last year alone (www.socialmediatoday.com).
Boyd and Ellison (2007) define social media as “a public web-based service that permits users to create a personal profile, identify other users with whom they can relate to or have a connection with, read and react to posts made by other users on the site, and send and receive messages either privately or publicly.” Kuss and Griffiths (2011) also define Social media as “virtual communities where users can create individual public profiles, interact with real-life friends, and meet other people based on shared interests.” Any website that enables social interaction by users is considered a social media site. Such sites are powered by web 2.0; an online technology with the ability to allow users to interact and share information online.
The increase in number of these social media sites, combined with the fast growth and advancement of mobile device technology in the last few years, coupled with the ease of access to broadband and mobile data services have created a major avenue for daily social interaction; encouraging regular profile updates and replies to comments and messages in real time.
People are now logging on to social media on mobile devices everywhere, at any time and on the go; making it a common everyday activity and this can be confirmed by statistics released by socialmediatoday.com which estimates that about 1.925 billion users of smartphones make use of their devices for Social Media.
The level of popularity and use of social media has increased greatly over the years since it was first introduced. In a survey carried out in September 2014, the Pew Research Centre found that the popularity of Facebook continues to grow as it is still the most popular social media site though there has been a slowdown in its growth. The number of engaged users on the platform
has however improved while other social media platforms such as Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram saw a substantial rise in usage.
In Ghana too, the use of social media has risen considerably over the past few years. The growth in the rate of internet usage and in effect social media can be tied to the advancement of communication technology in Ghana i.e. the growth in the usage of smartphones and the ease of access to broadband and mobile Internet (BiztechAfrica.com).
Internet and social media use in Ghana
According to internetworldstats.com, there were 297,885,898 internet users in Africa which represents about 9.8% of the total population of internet users the world over as at June 2014. 5,171,993 of the 297,885,898 internet users in Africa as at Dec 31, 2014 were from Ghana representing 19.6% of the population. This is an improvement on statistics from June, 2012 when the number of Ghanaian users stood at 3,568,757(14.1%) according to data released by internetstats.com showing a significant increase in usage. Currently, it can be said that Ghana has over 1.6 million active Facebook subscribers as the number of users stood at 1,630,420 representing 6.4% of the total population of internet users in Ghana as at Dec 31, 2012 (www.internetworldstats.com). This has contributed in Facebook being the 3rd most visited website in Ghana. YouTube and Twitter follow as the 5th and 16th respectively (www.Alexa.com). Making them the top three most visited social media sites in Ghana. These three sites are amongst the most used social media sites worldwide (www.Alexa.com) therefore being ranked in the top twenty most visited sites in Ghana suggest a high rate of usage of social media in Ghana.
Students at the tertiary level may form a large chunk of social media users in Ghana as research has shown social media is largely used by young people between the ages of 18 – 34(PEW research centre, 2014) and many students fall within this age bracket.
1.1.3. The social media addiction phenomenon
The magnitude of the use of these various platforms have become a cause for concern in recent times as this phenomenon has driven many researchers across the globe to undertake studies in the area both from the psychology point of view and the angle of communication studies. Like any other place in the world, users of social media in Ghana can be affected by the Social media addiction phenomenon.
Social media addiction is a term used to describe a situation where a user spends too much time on social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, instagram) such that it negatively affects other aspects of his or her daily life like school, work or relationship with others (Walker, 2011). Addiction as described by the American Psychological Association refers to a compulsive behaviour that leads to negative effects. In other forms of addictions such as drugs, gambling, video gaming, overeating etc., people feel bound to particular activities such that they become harmful habits, which then obstructs other important activities in their lives and this can be said of people who use social media excessively.