So you have a Facebook account; you’re logged in on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, mac, and PC. Every few minutes you check in to see if you have any new notifications, check what family and friends are up to, check if the crazy neighbor has posted any new rants, if your latest post has got any more likes, maybe that page has posted another hilarious video, did anyone interesting send you a friend request, did that annoying troll respond to your comment, did Donald Trump achieve world domination? There is so much information, so much news, so many potential updates, it’s no surprise that people check into social media regularly. There is, as we know too much of a good thing but does that mean you have an addiction? We know addiction is a very serious issue, regardless of the vice we don’t wish to use the term flippantly. However is the latest term “Facebook addiction” a reality in the realm of addictions? While it doesn’t have extensive scientific evidence to prove it as a full blown addiction; the compulsive and obsessive use of the social networking site does mirror similar brain activities to someone addicted to drugs.
The most recent study published in Psychological Reports: Disability & Trauma asked a group of undergraduates to fill in a questionnaire assessing their “addiction” to the site. The study had two parts looking first at addictive symptoms, such as withdrawal, conflict and anxiety. It then went on to show the students a series of images, some of them related to Facebook; they were asked to hit a button when these images appeared. Those who reacted the fastest to the Facebook images also scored highly on the addiction section of the study. There were noted correlations between the compulsive Facebook users and drug addicts. Specifically the images effected chemicals in the brain, activating amygdala and striatum which are responsible for the brain’s ‘reward system’, cocaine use has a similar neurological effect. The brian patterns of people compulsively using the social networking site were documented as similar to those patterns found in drug addicts. It is important to note that the neurological and physical reactions of those who stopped using the social networking site and those who stopped using drugs were also very different. So while it had similar attributes in stimulating the brain, it didn’t have the same effects on abstinence or withdrawal.
We use the word addicted very freely about lots of habits we have, so many of us say we are addicted to shopping, addicted to chocolate, addicted to a favourite TV series. The reality is we might do it or consume it more often than most but we would be able to reduce this or stop completely without any major negative implications or side effects. This is why the definition of Facebook addiction is questioned, because many of us know we should limit our use and try not to check in to the site every ten minutes but we also know that by doing so we are not going to experience any extraordinary consequences. Really it is about being responsible and using the site in moderation. If you find it is interfering with your work, relationships, social life and general day to day living then maybe you should take note of the hours spent on Facebook and start reducing your usage. Social networking is great but real life social interaction is better.