Facebook Addiction Disorder. Sounds a little extreme, right? However, the term is being taken pretty seriously. Though it has not yet been recognized as a mental disorder, researchers from around the world are studying this “trending” condition. And you may have it.
Here are the symptoms according to the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale:
- You spend a lot of time thinking about Facebook or planning how to use it.
- You feel an urge to use Facebook more and more.
- You use Facebook in order to forget about personal problems.
- You have tried to cut down on the use of Facebook without success.
- You become restless or troubled if you are prohibited from using Facebook.
- You use Facebook so much that it has had a negative impact on your job/studies.
According to the researchers who came up with the scale, if you often experience at least four of these, you are considered an “addict” (take the quiz).
It may seem a little dramatic, but other research supports the idea that Facebook can be like a drug: one new study found that the brains of people who report compulsive urges to use Facebook show brain patterns similar to those found in drug addicts. Scary.
Sophomore Alexa* agrees that logging on too frequently can lead to unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. “At a point, I became depressed because I was checking Facebook so often that I began to focus more on other people’s lives than my own. I’d be scrolling through pages of people I barely knew and obsessing over how perfect their pictures were, how many likes they got, all that stuff. It’s not healthy.”
Nhan, a senior, deleted his account for four months after experiencing similar feelings. “I was just sick of having to maintain an image that I felt didn’t reflect all the facets of my personality. Facebook is an endless stream of oversharing and bragging, both implicit and explicit. We only post things in hopes of receiving some validation, and I was exhausted from our generation’s collective self-absorption.” He says deleting his account was like lifting a burden, though he was forced to reactivate it eventually to manage school pages.
Interestingly, women spend about 30% more time on Facebook than men, and studies have found the heaviest female users are more likely to be unhappier with their lives and have negative feelings about their physical appearance.
Seems like the easy solution is to delete your account, but that’s becoming harder and harder to do. Social media has become such an essential form of communication in our society—some employers will even ask for links to your Facebook and Twitter as part of your job application. And because it’s only going to grow more, it’s our responsibility to adjust how we use it. The trick is to stay connected without letting these sites take control of your life and happiness.
Here are some tips:
1. Delete the app from your smartphone so that you can only access it from your computer, or turn off notifications.
You’ll end up checking Facebook a lot less frequently.
2. Deactivate your account during exam weeks or other times when you need to concentrate.
The great thing is that you can reactivate it whenever you want without having to create a new profile—everything will be just the way you left it.
3. Curb your addiction with a more productive social media site.
Sites like Quora can be just as entertaining, but more stimulating and thought-provoking than scrolling through the profiles of people you barely know.
4. Spend less time on your computer altogether.
When we’re bored or trying to kill time, we often just open up our computers and start browsing and scrolling, mindless behavior that makes us feel like we are being productive when we really aren’t. If you need a break from work or studying, try procrastinating in a better way, like going for a run, meeting up with a friend, organizing your room, etc.
5. Realize that it’s only a façade.
Don’t obsess over other people’s seemingly perfect lives. One of the biggest issues people report with Facebook is how damaging it can be to self-esteem. You have to remind yourself that it’s not real life, it’s a carefully curated image of how we want people to view our lives.
*Name has been changed.