We are living in the Facebook era, an age when everything that happens in our lives is mirrored by our online existence. Like everything else, there is an acceptable level of use and an unacceptable level, a point where normality becomes abuse and a point where the average social media user becomes a Facebook addict.
But how big of a problem is Facebook addiction, how many are addicted and how can you deal with this problem?
Is Facebook Addictive?
There is simply no comparing Facebook addiction to addictions to drugs like heroin, meth and cocaine. However, in the sense that it can grip you, create cravings and consume your life, it is a very real addiction.
Facebook addiction is a form of internet addiction and is also very similar to gaming addiction. It is mostly psychological, but there is a physical element as well. Simply put, when you use Facebook you get a sense of joy, satisfaction and gratification. When you post and get likes you feel happy and it is the same when you communicate with friends and do other things you enjoy.
These feelings can take priority over your every day life. You don’t want to drag yourself down with work and/or school, so you spend time in the virtual world instead. Rather than deadlines and stress, it’s all about selfies and shares. As you move further away from the real world and push yourself further into the virtual one, an occasional hobby becomes a constant habit and that’s when Facebook addiction takes over.
Those feelings of joy and contentment that you experience when you use social media triggers a release of dopamine and endorphins in your brain and the more this happens, the more you begin to crave that release. Social media triggers such releases because it puts you in a constant cycle of output and reward, much like a video game would. For instance, let’s take a look at the average day for someone who is addicted to Facebook.
They wake up and check their account. They see that friends and family have been having fun and they feel a little jealous, down in the dumps. The attention is not on them and they feel less good about their own lives because of it. So, they snap a few selfies, do something of note and then post. Those negative feelings turn to joy when the likes and the comments come in and that’s the point that the addict goes from a hang-over to a high. And of course, after the post disappears off their friends’ timelines then the bad mood returns, they suffer a little more and so the comedown has begun.
Like all addicts, they realize that the only way they can stop the comedown is to take more, so they do. They continue to fire those feel-good receptors in their brain by keeping the cycle going—checking, posting, getting high. This continues until the high gets shorter and the comedowns get longer, at which point they do it more and more.
It’s easy to dismiss Facebook addiction as non-existent and tame by comparison, but it can consume someone just as easily and just as much as many other drugs and many other habits.
How Common is Facebook Addiction?
There are close to 2 billion users on Facebook, more than half of which check their accounts as soon as they wake up. That’s a lot of action and a lot of potential for the cycle of addiction to repeat.
It has been reported that more than 1 in 10 users over the age of 25 can not go more than a couple hours without checking their status, a staggering figure when you consider that this is the age group when we should have everything together, including a job and even a family, yet many of us are hooked on a virtual network.
It is hard to put an exact figure on how many people are addicted to Facebook, but the estimations range anywhere from 1% to 10%. It is unlikely that as many as 10% will be addicted, of course and it’s more likely that they simply use the network more than usual. However, it seems that we all know at least 1 person who is hooked on the network, so it’s probably safe to assume that the real number of Facebook addicts is greater than 1%.
How to Quit Facebook
Obviously, there is no quick fix here. It is not advised that you use a medication or supplement to get over your Facebook addiction like you would if addicted to codeine, tramadol and other narcotics. Cognitive therapy, group therapy and avoidance therapy can all work though. You simply need to find something that will fill your time better and will provide you with the same highs, without swapping one addiction for another.
If you are hooked on Facebook for the social aspect, then spend more time out of the house with friends and family. If you are hooked on the games, then try playing board games and card games with friends. They can provide higher levels of stimulation and they don’t come with all of the low points that you get from Facebook.
Cures for Facebook Addiction
First things first, you should avoid stopping cold turkey. It’s never advisable with anything and with Facebook addiction it’s not advised simply because it increases the chance of relapse. Instead, limit yourself to a couple of hours a day and try to fill the rest of your time with something else. The more you spend away, the more you will realize that you don’t need Facebook after all, and once that realization hits then you may be ready to delete your account altogether.
Dangers of Facebook Addiction
The main dangers of Facebook addiction include social isolation and a buildup of resentment and jealously toward friends and family. If you visit a friend and they tell you about the good times they had and all the great things they did the day before, you are inclined to listen, laugh and enjoy their tales. But if you see them posting pictures of the good time they had on Facebook while you’re sitting in your PJs eating chips and watching reruns of Judge Judy, you’re more inclined to feel bitter and to grow to hate a person you used to love and respect.
Facebook addiction can also be a precursor for other addictions as you begin to distance yourself, become more isolated and look to find solace in alcohol and drugs.
Signs of Facebook Addiction
The main sign of Facebook addiction is excessive use of the social network, with the user taking every possible opportunity to jump online and check their feed. This is a common trait in many though and doesn’t always mean they are addicted. Really, it’s only a major problem if it is affecting how they live their life, bringing their mood down, stopping them from leaving the house and forcing their attention away from the real world at every turn.
It’s not always easy to approach someone who you think might be addicted to Facebook, because to many people the idea of being addicted to social media is preposterous. They may reply to say that they just have nothing better to do and that you’re being stupid. So, focus instead on the harm it is doing to their social life, remind them of what better things they could be doing with their life and offer to take them away from their phone/computer every now and then.