Facebook Addictions Explained
By Dr. Brent Conrad
Clinical Psychologist for TechAddiction
Certain human behaviors, habits, and obsessions have been classified as addictions by psychological and medical organizations.
For example, substance-related disorders such as Alcohol Dependence and impulse-control disorders such as Pathological Gambling are recognized as official diagnoses in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
Official recognition of what does and does not constitute a "disorder" is something that continues to evolve. For example, until it was removed from the DSM in 1986, homosexuality was listed as a diagnosable disorder.
While some disorders are dropped from classification systems, others are modified, and occasionally, new problematic conditions are added.
In recent years the mental health community has become increasingly interested in the impact that modern technology has on our lives - both positive and negative.
On the positive side, technologies such as Skype, Facetime, and Facebook allow us to stay in contact with family and friends on the other side of the planet. Video conferencing may allow us to occasionally work from home. Having a Smartphone with GPS capabilities means that we will never get lost (or have to ask for directions) again!
Yet, whenever we are introduced to a new form of entertainment there is the potential for unhealthy use, overuse, or abuse. Look no further than alcohol or gambling for examples of activities that are relatively harmless in moderation but which can cause serious problems when one is addicted. Even healthy activities such as exercise can cause significant health problems if it becomes an obsession (for example, compulsively running six hours per day on a treadmill).
Regarding the potential for some people to become "hooked" on technology, internet addiction and video game addition have received the most study from researchers and clinicians. However, social media sites like Facebook have also caught their attention.
It is very likely that you know people who absolutely must check their Facebook account when they first wake up, obsessively check it throughout the day, and never fail to log in just one last time before going to sleep for the night.
Perhaps they spend hours upon hours every day updating their status, uploading pictures, commenting on walls, playing Facebook games, reading updates from others, and searching for new friends to add. Maybe they often neglect other important responsibilities, commitments, or people in favor of Facebook. Perhaps their real-world relationships, careers, or schoolwork suffer due to too much time on Facebook.
So the question is:
Is Facebook an addiction?
The simple answer? No.
Facebook overuse / obsession / preoccupation is not considered to be an addiction.
Facebook addiction has not been classified as a disorder by any psychological or medical organization. The inclusion of new disorders (such as a proposal for "Facebook Addiction Disorder") in diagnostic classification systems requires years (if not decades) of research.
Although psychologists and psychiatrists are often criticized as being overly eager to pathologize human behaviors, with regard to "legitimizing" new disorders, they generally take a very slow and conservative approach - and only officially recognize new pathologies / disorders after years of clinical and empirical research.
Where does this leave us with Facebook addiction?
At the very least it is reasonable to suggest that while most people can use Facebook without becoming "addicted", there are some who have difficulty keeping their Facebook habits under control (to its credit, Facebook has imposed age restrictions for users).
As previously mentioned, these individuals may place more importance on gaining Facebook friends than on maintaining and developing real world friendships
They may experience problems in their relationships due to excessive time on Facebook and subsequent neglect of their partners
Their work performance may suffer as a result of Facebook preoccupation.
Academic performance may be given far less attention than interacting on Facebook
Is Facebook an addiction? Officially, no. Is excessive Facebook use a problem for some people? Absolutely.
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PS: Yes, we realize that it may seem somewhat hypocritical to put a "Like" button on this article!
But, TechAddiction has never been about banning technology or preaching that people should not use the internet, play video games, or use Facebook. They just need to be used responsibly.
Facebook is a great way to share information and can be quite enjoyable and harmless when used in moderation, hence we ultimately decided to include a "Like" button...sound reasonable?
Is Facebook addictive? What is your opinion?