Facebook has become so much a part of our life now that it’s so prevalent across the world. With close to a billion users out there, one can easily throw a stone and hit a Facebook user. The amount of time users engage in Facebook activities, like updating statuses, posting photos, commenting and ‘liking’ posts has also been increasing with smartphones and 3G/Wi-fi networks becoming commonplace in recent years.
Given the accessibility and ease of use of Facebook whenever and wherever you are, it’s no wonder more and more people are addicted to the popular social networking site. You may ask, what’s wrong if you use Facebook frequently as a means of entertainment, or as a means to relieve your stress? Well, there’s nothing wrong. However, when Facebook activities start interfering with your everyday life and become detrimental to your daily functioning at work or in school, you might have a problem.
The first step to breaking any bad habit is to understand the psychological triggers that made you pick up the habit in the first place. Below are common ones that I know very well.
At a time when many netizens are concern over the issue of privacy online, it’s strange to find that there are still a number of us who voluntarily share our deepest secrets about our intimate lives on Facebook. It has perhaps a lot to do with the gratification of being acknowledged or approved by our peers. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier article, The Psychology of Facebook, such social affirmations by our friends in our network is a key draw of social networking sites.
There’s no basis for me to say that sharing about ourselves is wrong, because each of us have our own social needs to fulfill. It’s what makes us humans. What I’m talking about here is the idea of over-sharing, of saying too much and then regretting what we said. When we’re addicted to something, we’ll do anything just to get a satisfying dose of engagement in the activity. So in the case of Facebook addiction, we may become unable to judge what’s appropriate to share, allowing our desire to be heard to override our privacy concerns.
2. Checking Your Facebook Whenever Possible
This means checking out for any updates to your newsfeed or responses to your posts every time you don’t know what to do. In other words, the default choice for your freetime activity is to be on Facebook. So what do you do? You leave your Facebook open in the background, switching between work or assignments to the page every few minutes. Even when you are outside enjoying a drink with a friend, you log in to the Facebook app on your smartphone every now and then during brief moments of non-interactions.
The end result is that you get distracted in whatever it is you’re doing and you may find it hard to be fully present at the moment. Perhaps you may take a significantly longer amount of time to complete simple tasks or maybe some of your friends may complain that you don’t pay enough attention to what they say. No surprises there, seeing how your attention is always diverted to some Facebook notifications.
3. Overly Concerned with Facebook Image
Have you ever spent more than fifteen minutes of your time thinking about what you ought to type for your status update? After you’ve decided on what you should update and posted it, do you eagerly anticipate how others will respond to it? This is what it means when I mention your ‘Facebook image’. To some extent, we are all concerned over how we project ourselves to the rest of the world, even when it comes to our online presence.
Some of us though, may have been spending too much time managing a friend’s impression of them. It gets out of hand when you’re always trying to think of something cool, humorous, entertaining, etc to post just to show how awesome a guy or gal you are. After which, you get restless while you wait for others to comment or ‘like’ what you’ve posted and so you just keep checking and re-checking your Facebook to see if there’re any new notifications.
4. Reporting On Facebook
Most of us have seen friends in our network who almost certainly never fail to appear on our newsfeed each time we log on to Facebook. It could be some status update, check-in, posting of their photos and such. Their posts tend to be on very mundane matters, much like how someone reports to another what he or she is doing at any given moment. They report to you their daily routines, broadcast check-ins to uninteresting places like the street they live in, upload self-portraits and such.
It appears to be an attempt to remind others that they exist. Either that or these people are just trying to make their offline life co-existing with their Facebook one. If you are one of these people, I think it’s good to ask yourself the reason behind such ‘reporting’. To me, it seems to be a sign of obsession, as if you need to post something, no matter how ordinary or unimaginative, in order to relieve your anxiety of not doing so.
5. Spending Hours Browsing Through Facebook Every day
Spending about an hour or so daily looking through your newsfeeds and checking out profiles of your friends is still okay, but if it starts going beyond that, it’s an indicator of a problem. Sure, there’s loads of content on Facebook like photos, games and other interesting apps, but if you start using increasingly more of your valuable waking hours surfing aimlessly on Facebook, it’s time to reexamine your lifestyle.
The issue gets worse when you actually sacrifice your sleep to use Facebook. It’s as if the amount of waking hours you have aren’t enough for you to satisfy your Facebook cravings. Lack of sleep will undoubtedly affect your performance in school or work the next day, which is when Facebook becomes an addiction problem.
6. Mad rush to add more friends
For some users, Facebook addiction may manifest itself as an intense desire to add more friends. There is a perceived ‘arms race’ between you and your other friends to see who has the highest number of friends on their network. The keyword here is ‘perceived’, because you may think there’s a competition but in fact there might be none (i.e. your friends could not care less about whether they have more or fewer friends than you). The contention on who has more friends may just be your personal quest to be seen as more ‘popular’.
Interestingly, a research done by psychologists found that Facebook users with more friends on their network tend to be more stressed up when using Facebook. The more friends you have, the more you feel pressured to maintain appropriate etiquette for different types of friends while remaining entertaining. In other words, the competition in adding friends may result in a vicious cycle of increasing Facebook-related tensions, resulting in worse addiction outcomes.
7. Compromising offline social life
As you get used to communicating on Facebook via messaging, sharing photos and posts, commenting and ‘liking’ others etc, it may come to a point when you get more comfortable socializing online than offline. You become over-reliant on Facebook to fulfill your social needs and may start sacrificing the time spent on real-life meet-ups for coffee with your friends.
That’s not healthy. Let’s face it, face-to-face communication is a far richer experience than communicating online where one cannot actually see non-verbal communication as in the body language, gestures, voice tones, etc. It’s not surprising that text messages often get misinterpreted, resulting in misunderstandings. In the long run, your social life suffers because your communication is limited to Facebook and not with a real-life friend.
Overcoming Facebook Addiction
Looking back at the signs and symptoms of Facebook addiction, I realize I am by no means immune to it. Over-sharing? Check. Refreshing my Facebook newsfeed whenever I have the chance? Check. The only consolation I have for myself is that I don’t do that on a regular basis; I simply fall in to the trap every once in a while. That’s not considered an addiction… I hope(?). I’ve read a number of articles that offer tips on how one can overcome Facebook addiction, and most of these offer precise step-by-step solutions on how to address your issue.
Tips like first admitting you have a problem, setting aside a fixed time to check your Facebook, turning off notifications, etc are all legitimate. However, it might be more effective if we deal with the root of the addiction problem by finding out why you are depending on Facebook so much.
Is it because you’re using Facebook to avoid dealing with some things, such as your work or personal issues at home? Once you know what the underlying issue is, you’ll be more confident to manage your addiction. If there’s none to be found, then maybe it has to do with habit. Put Facebook away for awhile, go out and experience the offline world by interacting with your friends face-to-face. You’ll realize how much more wonderful that is than to stare at your newsfeed all day long. That’s when change can begin.