Up in Smoke (Facebook)
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Facebook has held the honor of being the most used social networking site on the web since 2009. Every day many people join and start getting connected with old friends, classmates, colleagues and new friends. Whether logging in for business or pleasure, millions of individuals spend a good amount of hours on Facebook a week. The network boasts over 1 billion members, 890 million of which are daily active users.

The popular website's biggest rival used to be MySpace, but Facebook grew at such a rapid rate it did not take long to become a real contender for the former champ of popular social networking sites. Facebook quickly closed the gap as many new people joined and connected and became hooked. It wasn't long before MySpace tumbled and has been trying to re-invent itself ever since. (Its last incarnation was an entertainment hub with backing by Justin Timberlake).

But enough with the history, the addiction factor to social networking sites is an interesting phenomenon. Usually, an addicted person is the last person to realize he or she has a problem. With Facebook, the compulsion is to continuously log onto his or her Facebook page, if the person ever leaves the site at all. Yet this still doesn't mean a person necessarily has an addiction.

Is Constant Use of Anything an 'Addiction'?

In years past the word "addiction" was highly linked to substance abuse, and in its purest sense, this is usually the definition.  An addiction is when something can't be stopped even through effort, the addicted person always returns to the source because he or she can't control themselves from using it. However, thinking has begun to change and many experts are now looking at behaviors as a category of addiction. For instance, gambling is now routinely accepted as a type of addiction.

Studies considering addiction and Facebook use have only been conducted in recent years and studies are usually with small samples, but the fact experts are beginning to associate Facebook with potential addiction factors is telling. For instance, a study published in Jan. 2015 suggested the brains of people who said they had "compulsive urges" to use Facebook had similar brain patterns to the ones found in drug addicts. 4

Like any other types of addiction, having a compulsion allow social media to shadow over one's life can create problems. Internet-related addictions are a relatively new issue and, being it's in the "behavior" category, studies are still ongoing. However, it's clear there are problems emerging related to Internet and mobile use.

In terms of Facebook though, if "behavioral" addictions are accepted as a category of addiction, here are a few signs of someone who might be addicted to the website:

Compulsive Log-Ins

There is often a fine line between habit and addiction. It is probable many Facebook members peek in several times a day out of habit (or stay logged in through a mobile app), but these members aren't necessarily constantly checking the pages and/or notifications they receive.

People who are addicted are likely more inclined to constantly check Facebook more frequently so they don't miss a thing as it happens live. If you watch the status feeds, you'll see some people constantly update their status several times a day while others update perhaps once or twice a week, if that. Others pop in once a month. The latter types are likely not addicted at all, but the person consistently updating all day may be.

Members who may be addicted may also constantly engage in many of the social networking activities such as games, gifts, notes and other applications Facebook offers. There are hundreds of applications and, unless you spend an inordinate amount of time on Facebook, it is virtually impossible to explore most of them.

If you log-in dozens of times a day to check messages, or refresh the page constantly, this may be a sign of addiction. This is especially true if this activity interrupts your daily routine and you can't get things done because you are too busy checking Facebook.

Constantly "Connected"

People who are addicted to Facebook may spend their days going out of their way to get to a computer connection, or if they have one on their mobile device, they constantly access it. For those who don't have a portable internet connection and are addicted to Facebook, chances are throughout their day they stop at the school library, use a class lab computer or ask others who have laptops or other mobile devices if they can borrow their connect to "check up on something important online". If a person can't "tune out", this indicates there is likely a problem.

Side note: It is becoming more common to hear of smartphone addictions. A Facebook one is only a small component of this widely growing debate. [3]

Facebook for mobile (Android)
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Out of Touch

If a person has reached the point where he or she has become isolated from their "offline" friends, this may be a sign of addiction, especially if Facebook connections extend beyond friends and family and the individual is consumed with introductions to new people who use the website.

Facebook members who interact more with strangers than their "real life" friends and hang out more online than in personal interactions may be addicted. People who are addicted likely can't remember the last time they got together with friends or called someone on the telephone.

This type of behavior can often screw up relationships or jobs too.

Consumed With the Friend List

A Facebook addict is likely consumed with adding more friends to their lists. They constantly scope out new profiles, make connections and keep a tally of how many Facebook friends they picked up in any given period of time.

Juggling Facebook
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Everything Goes on Facebook

This may or may not signal an addiction, but individuals who only use Facebook to communicate with friends and family may be too attached to the network.  I'm not talking about sharing good or bad news with everyone. The situations I'm referring to are those who announce everything only on the network to others. Engagements, births, deaths. I've heard stories of deaths occurring in the family and only those on Facebook heard about it. No phone calls or other attempts to notify people.

Not everyone checks Facebook routinely. If there is something important to share, perhaps a phone call, or at least a personal email, is warranted. However, Facebook addicts won't consider this type of etiquette. There are just some things that should be shared more personally than a general announcement to anyone who might happen to stumble across the status update.  Facebook somewhat "chooses" what people see due to its algorithm so important news can easily be missed. Not to mention Facebook-addicted people might be posting so much, their connections may "stop following" them due to too much "noise" in their feeds with an addict dominating the feed.

[Related reading: Effects of Social Media on Interpersonal Communication ]

Social media addiction
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Has Continual Facebook on the Brain

Facebook addicts are probable to be constantly thinking about Facebook throughout the day. If there is no Internet connection, their minds drift to wondering what their Facebook friends are doing or if they are missing out on anything happening on the site. There may even be a sense of anxiety when away from the site for too long. It can distract a person from work or school.

If you think you or someone close to you might be addicted, a few questions to consider are:

  •  Are you constantly wondering if you have responses or if people left you messages?
  • Do you obsess over your latest status on any games you are engaging in?
  • Do you freak out when you can't get your Facebook "fix" several times a day?
  • Are your thoughts consumed with Facebook whether on or off the website?
  • Have your dreams been invaded with visions of Facebook or interactions on the website?
  • Are you out of touch of what's happening in the "real world" and more involved with Facebook events?
  • Do you keep a constant running list and constantly check your friend count and obsess over how many you have? Are you devastated if someone "deletes" you as a friend?

If you answer "yes" to more than a few of these questions, you may want to consider a potential addiction, or at the very least, a very time-consuming habit. If so, don't log on to Facebook for a few days and see what happens. Do you miss it? Or do you find an unhealthy need to log on and can't stop obsessing over it?

Facebook is a fantastic way to keep in touch and make new connections through networking. It can also be a lot of fun for those inclined to use it. There is nothing wrong with engaging in healthy social networking, as it has become an important part of most people's lives to keep up with family and friends.

It only becomes a problem if Facebook begins to take a precedence over spending time working or with friends and family. If the latter is occurring, you might want to consider a potential addiction.

Other related articles you  may be interested in:

How Facebook has Become a Prime Source for Divorce Case Evidence

How Sharing Information on Facebook Can Lead to Identity Theft

Facebook like/dislike keys
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