Facebook has proved to be a useful pastime for many people. Unfortunately, some of those minutes used on Facebook are probably related to an addiction. In 2009 CNN ran a story about this topic and spoke to both a self-proclaimed addict and a therapist who has seen an upswing of addiction scenarios.
"Last Friday, I had three clients in my office with Facebook problems," said Paula Pile, a marriage and family therapist in Greensboro, North Carolina. "It's turned into a compulsion - a compulsion to dissociate from your real world and go live in the Facebook world." 1
Fast forward six years and Facebook has gained hundreds of millions of users since that time. If a problem was emerging back in 2009, imagine the number of potential addicts that exist in 2016?
While statistics are not exactly clear on how prominent Facebook addiction could be, what is becoming more evident is that a real problem has emerged for some people. On average, social networking accounts for 28 percent of all media time spent online. Teens in particular (aged 13-19), are highly engaged, spending at least three hours a day on social media sites. Estimates suggested those aged 20-29 are on the network about two hours a day. 3, 4
But are these addictions? Habits? Or just an overall shift in communication? (I'd venture to guess a bit of all three..)
Figure these are averages, not the time spent by the more active users. There is a debate on using the "term" addiction with something not related to drugs, alcohol or other chemical substance. However, it is becoming more accepted that the term "addiction" can describe other dependency problems too (i.e. Gambling addictions are now more widely accepted. If looking at it from this perspective, it seems social media could apply if a person simply cannot pull his or herself away from it).
Going on the presumption one accepts there is such a term as "social media addiction", here are some of the ways a Facebook addiction can ruin lives:
1. Parenting Problems—
Children need their parents, but with the time-consuming elements that often accompany Facebook use, if the network grabs hold of a parent too much, the resulting effect is children can suffer.
The aforementioned story CNN ran spoke of another addict—a mother who ignored her daughter's pleas for help with homework. The daughter became so desperate she sent her mother an email, which was subsequently ignored since mom was too busy on Facebook to notice she had incoming messages outside of the social network. The woman said she spent 20 hours a week on Facebook, and half of that was for work—the other half was fun.
2. Marital Problems
In many cases, spouses are bound to feel frustrated if they are continuously ignored by their spouse who prefers the company of Facebook. This can occur in marriages already inflicted by problems, or it can occur in the happiest of unions. If a spouse becomes addicted to Facebook, strife can result which can put a wedge in the marriage that may be difficult to overcome. 1 In worst case scenarios, marriages can break up, or be affected by affairs that are sparked through engaging in heavy interaction on the network, ignoring the relationship or other things at home.
Marriages that already have problems may find the social-media engaged partner actively searching out old or new loves on the network. Figure, it's not hard to do being Facebook is not rooted in anonymity. Or spouses feeling neglected by their mate who spends way too much time on the network may go out and search out an affair to get attention—either their spouse's or someone else's.
3. Work Problems
Facebook and the workplace can be problematic because employers do not want to pay their employees to spend the day interacting on Facebook. Additionally, bosses are going to become peeved at employees who may not be achieving acceptable levels of productivity and/or are missing deadlines due to their preoccupations with their Facebook activities. In this respect, a compulsion to log into Facebook could lead to problems or the job, or worse, loss of a job.
Individuals who cannot pull themselves away from Facebook over time are likely to isolate themselves from everyone around them. Not only can it cause problems in the household and at work, but also result in offline friendships and becoming a casualty. People too attached to Facebook often tend to stop attending social functions, do not become involved in their home communities and may generally become less active in "real life". Over time, a Facebook addict does not have much surrounding him or herself in terms of company, except virtual interactions. This can eventually lead to depression and other emotional issues.
Have your eye constantly on Facebook and can't pull away? Could you be addicted?
5. Health Problems
Lack of sleep and fatigue are two other issues that can emerge. Late night Facebook interaction, sleeping with smartphones in order not to miss updates or logging on the network before doing anything else in the morning can be disruptive. For instance, a 2010 study published by Oxygen Media and Lightspeed Research found 1/3 of the women surveyed in the 18-34 age range check Facebook as soon as they wake up, making the network a priority over getting to the bathroom (via Mashable). 5 Is this a heavy indicator an addiction may be present? Maybe, maybe not. But it is something worth considering. A body needs rest and when the brain goes into hyper drive due to compulsive Facebook use, other bodily components may begin to break down. The lack of sleep and fatigue associated with too much Facebook use is not going to have a positive health effect.
[Related reading: A Look at the Rise of 'Sleep-Texting' ]
If you or someone you know is an avid Facebook user and are experiencing some of the above problems, there may be an addiction brewing or full-blown. If you suspect you might have a problem, evaluate the signs and then ask yourself a few questions. For many people, being addicted to Facebook (or any other social media site) can truly ruin quality of life if one isn't careful.