For some, a time without social media or other social networking sites seems impossible. Since their creation, social media has taken control over our lives, becoming more than a platform to connect with others. However, can our use of these platforms be harmful? Let’s explore the possibilities of someone struggling with a Facebook addiction disorder.
What Causes Facebook Addiction?
While “Facebook Addiction Disorder” isn’t a formally recognized condition, researchers and professionals suggest it’s a growing concern, particularly among young people. Addiction to social networking is likely caused by a collision of biological, psychological, social, and cultural factors.
A very small study in Germany analyzed Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) over one year. By the end of the study, they noticed that FAD was negatively related to depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms. The study saw a noticeable correlation between narcissism, stress symptoms, and FAD, which means people with narcissistic personalities are at higher risk of developing an addiction.
Social networking sites like Facebook use elements such as loneliness, boredom, stress, and pair these with actions, unpredictable rewards, and investments to keep people engaged and “hooked.” But one could say it’s very similar to Internet addiction, which leads people to escape from their real-life.
However, the set of variables that can lead to social media addiction are so vast and diverse that it’s impossible to blame a single element.
Signs of Social Media Addiction
The most apparent signs of addiction to any social media platform is the excessive, compulsive use of the platform to improve your mood. However, the concept of “excessive” can vary tremendously from person to person. So, here are some more specific symptoms of Facebook addiction:
- Frequently spending more time on the site than you want or intend to
- Compulsively checking Facebook even when you don’t want to
- Turning to the site to boost your mood or escape problems
- Your amount of time spent using it has started to affect your health, sleep, and relationships
- Difficulty staying off or quitting Facebook, even after trying multiple times
How Facebook Addiction Affects the Brain
Surprisingly, and frankly a bit terrifying, Facebook and other social platforms trigger similar chemical reactions to certain drugs and alcohol. Some experts believe that it’s the triggering of these areas of the brain that leads to addiction in the first place.
In one small study, a researcher found that Facebook addicts showed activation of their amygdala and striatum, areas of the brain involved in impulsive behavior. But unlike in the brains of cocaine addicts, for instance, the Facebook users showed no quieting of the brain systems responsible for inhibition in the prefrontal cortex.
The study also found that when participants saw Facebook cues versus a traffic sign, the Facebook cues were much more potent in their brains. In essence, if you’re walking with a Facebook addict down the streets, they’re more likely to respond faster to an alert from their phones than to street signs.
Beyond these findings, we also know that Facebook can affect women’s body image. We also know that it can lead people to depression, cause them to obsess over a failed relationship, and increase someone’s feelings of “fear of missing out,” or FOMO.
Because of these adverse effects, researchers started using the term “Facebook addiction” to highlight the unhealthy behavior of spending hours checking the social media platform. Of course, whether compulsive social media use is addiction is still hotly debated.
How to Manage Your Addiction
Thankfully, unlike substance abuse, your body doesn’t physically crave the use of Facebook. There are countless ways to manage your social media use and bring it down to a healthy level that’s not impacting your social or mental wellbeing.
Become Aware of Your Use
The first step into managing this addiction is understanding how much time you’re spending on Facebook. You can use your phone’s metrics to learn more about your social media use. Compulsive Facebook use would be to check your friend’s status updates every hour. Nowadays, most software includes a “screen time” setting that helps you analyze your daily averages.
Reduce Your Use
Most people find cutting out Facebook cold-turkey to be a bit too drastic and unrealistic. So, try limiting your time on Facebook. Your phone can be a great help for this. Check your settings to see if you have “App Limits” to set the time of use per day for each app. If you noticed you spend, on average, 5-6 hours on Facebook, try bringing that number to 3-4 hours, and work yourself down to maybe an hour a day.
Be Mindful About Your Moods
A critical point of “addiction” drives you to use this “emotional release,” in this case, Facebook. If you notice you always turn to Facebook when you’re lonely, depressed, envious, or bored, then think about alternatives to channel these emotions. Maybe instead of reaching out to Facebook, you can try journaling your feelings or calling a friend.
Find Other Distractions
As you’re going through your social media detox, you might need to find new activities to stay entertained. Look for distractions that keep you away from your phone. Consider cooking, hiking, yoga, crafting, journaling, or sketching, for example. Even watching a movie or a show can help you stay away from your phone.
When to Ask for Help
It might seem insignificant, but struggling with Facebook addiction can affect your mental wellbeing and overall health. Please don’t feel ashamed. It’s prevalent to become addicted to Facebook. Consider reaching out to a therapist if you have a hard time managing your Facebook use on your own, or if your relationship with Facebook has started to affect you negatively. If you notice depression, anxiety, or other mood symptoms, it might be time to speak with a therapist.
Seeking therapy can help you find the right strategies for cutting back on your use, work through any unpleasant emotions, and deal with unwanted feelings. Yes, Facebook is a fun and engaging social platform, but it shouldn’t take the pleasure away from living your life.