Step away from social media – the risks of a Facebook addictionCurrent affairs
The social networking site Facebook is said to now have over one billion active users each month after CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a status to confirm the huge figure back in September 2012. With so many people accessing the site worldwide, an interest in Facebook has been aroused, with numerous studies being conducted to find out the risks that come with a Facebook addiction.
The results of a study carried out by a group from Chicago University’s Booth Business School, led by Wilhelm Hoffman, showed that social media could actually be more addictive than alcohol and cigarettes.
This study was designed to test the will power of a group of 205 people between the ages of 18 and 85 and asked them to describe their desires and the strength of said desires seven times a day over the course of a week. The study showed that checking in with social media was high on the list of “self- control failure rates” and came ahead of the urges the participants had to either drink or smoke.
Hoffman suggested: “Desires for media may be comparatively harder to resist because of their high availability and also because it feels like it does not ‘cost much’ to engage in these activities, even though one wants to resist”.
Of course, social media sites like Facebook have a great deal of positive attributes including increased interaction with family members and friends and greater access to educational materials and important information. People have described positive feelings of inclusion due to Facebook and those who struggle with self- confidence issues may find it easier to communicate online.
However, with a high percentage of users logging in before they have even got out of bed in the morning and brushed their teeth there could be a darker side to an addictive use of social networking sites.
Non- profit organisation Anxiety UK released findings from a recent study which showed that 45% of the 228 social media users they polled said that they felt “worried or uncomfortable” when they could not gain access to Facebook.
This showed how being away from social networks was causing participants anxiety. Nicky Lidbetter, the CEO at Anxiety UK, said: “These findings suggest that some may need to re-establish control over the technology they use, rather than being controlled by it”.
As well as anxiety, Facebook can cause over- stimulation with some users finding it more difficult to sleep after they have used social media for a long period of time. Worryingly it can also create feelings of jealousy and dissatisfaction.
Berlin’s University Humboldt-Universität conducted a joint research study which showed that over a third of the 600 Facebook users they surveyed experienced upsetting feelings of envy or frustration due to the happiness of their “Facebook friends”. Holiday pictures, smiling photographs and happy posts were particular causes of resentment and jealousy.
The research suggests this could create an “envy spiral” with other users embellishing their own profiles to make themselves appear happier, consequently creating jealousy in others and continuing the vicious cycle.
Indeed, Helena Wenninger of the TU Darmstadt expressed that: “Considering the fact that Facebook is a worldwide phenomenon and envy is a universal feeling, a lot of people are subject to these painful consequences”. Further studies have shown that some users who log into Facebook on a regular basis are at risk of feeling unhappier with their own lives as a result.
Gemini Adams, an award winning author and illustrator, has addressed the issue of Facebook addiction in an illustrated book called “The Facebook Diet”. The cartoons in the book show 50 depictions of possible addiction as well as suggestions on how to break it.
Adams herself was a self-confessed Facebook addict before she decided that she needed to make some changes. She explained “I made a life choice to stop spending so much time on Facebook, start going out and finding new social groups to interact with physically”. This came after realising that “having real life experiences” was more important than social media.
Adams has expressed hope that her book will help people to think about how much time they are spending on Facebook, maybe even considering taking some time out from it. She suggests spending time on Facebook but ensuring enough time is made for other activities too. She asked of people using social networking: “Is technology something they’re utilising or is it really using them?”