“Okay, I admit it. I am truly addicted to Facebook,” said teenage blogger Heidi Barry-Rodriquez in 2007. In 2009, teen Neeka Salmasi described the social networking giant as being “like an addiction”. This year, a casino site mentioned that “Facebook provides the atmosphere where it is tough to walk away” in a direct comparison to gambling addiction. A quick web search and it becomes appallingly evident that we have a problem. Text messaging is no longer the biggest teenage obsession, and long gone are the days where the biggest worries for parents were celebrity crushes, massive phone bills from ridiculously long phone calls and chocolate overloads. These teenage obsessions still exist, but in today’s day and age, and in comparison to the Facebook craze, they seem rather insignificant.
Facebook is taking over the world, and that’s no exaggeration. Everyone from eager-to-fit-in tweens to educated business people to intrigued grandparents has joined the phenomenon, and unsurprisingly many teenagers have also caught Facebook fever. And like with many of the latest attention-grabbing trends, some teenagers can go a little overboard when participating in them. Perhaps we join Facebook because everyone has an account and, as teenagers, the need to fit in is just too great, or perhaps there’s just a special something that has helped the social networking site attract so many million people. Teenagers have a tendency to become obsessive with the ‘in’ thing and Facebook, the trend of the decade, is no exception; the question is, have we overdone in? And is there really such thing as Facebook addiction?
An American psychologist believes so. In fact, he’s even introduced a new term to describe such an addiction. FAD, or Facebook Addiction Disorder, is a condition that is defined by hours spent on Facebook, so much time in fact that the healthy balance of the individual’s life is affected. It has been said that approximately 350 million people are suffering from the disorder that is detected through a simple set of six-criteria. People who are victims of the condition must have at least 2-3 of the following criteria during a 6-8 month time period.
- Tolerance: This term is used to describe the desperate behavior of a Facebook addict. They spend an increasing amount of time on the site, coming to a stage where they need it in order to obtain satisfaction or on the other extreme, it is having a detrimental affect on them as a person and their life. For the family members and friends who think they are dealing with an addict, a sign to look out for are multiple Facebook windows open. Three or more confirms that they are indeed suffering from this condition.
- Withdrawal symptoms: These become obvious when one is restricted from using Facebook because they have to participate in normal everyday activities. Common signs are anxiety, distress and the need to talk about Facebook and what might have been posted on their wall in their absence.
- Reduction of normal social/recreational activities: Someone suffering from FAD will reduce the time spent catching up with friends, playing sport or whatever it is they used to enjoy doing, to simply spend time on Facebook. Instead of catching up with a friend for coffee, they will send a Facebook message. A dinner date will be substituted with a messenger chat. In extreme cases, the person will even stop answering their parent’s phone calls, instead insisting that they use Facebook to contact them.
- Virtual dates: It is obvious that things are extreme when real dates are replaced with virtual dates. Instead of going to the movies or out to dinner, they tell their partner to be online at a certain time.
- Fake friends: If 8 out of 10 people shown on their Facebook page are complete strangers, it is undeniable: they have a serious case of FAD.
- Complete addiction: When they meet new people, they say their name, followed by “I’ll talk to you on Facebook”, or for those who are extremely bad, “I’ll see you in Facebook”. Their pets have Facebook pages, and any notifications, wall posts, inboxes or friend requests that they receive give them a high, one which can be compared to that gambling addicts get from the pokies or roulette table.
So someone believes that addiction to the net is a real condition that needs to be treated just like any other addiction, with care and caution, but is an obsession with Facebook a real condition, or is FAD really just the latest fad?
Either way, Facebook obsessions are definitely present in today’s society and whether it is a disorder or not, something needs to be done to fix it. Forget the fancy name and look at the facts. Many people, teenagers in particular, are spending too much time online. People’s lives are being affected because of the hours spent looking at profiles and pictures. Facebook, very beneficial in some ways, is having a detrimental affect on the everyday behaviors of people around the world. Having seen the affects of too much time online firsthand, I know this to be true. Nobody can possibly disagree when the facts speak for themselves and when an individual’s online ‘life’ becomes more important than their real one, we know that there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
But, what to do about it? How can we possibly fix a problem that has affected more than a third of the world’s population? That is a question I can’t answer, but I do know that our parents can play an important role, well, that is if the addicted is still young enough to be influenced by their parents. There are two kinds of parents in my area, both from different ends of the spectrum. On one side we have the Facebook haters, the parents who don’t have Facebook, don’t understand Facebook and never want to understand Facebook. On the other side, we have the Facebook lovers, those who act more like their teenage children than their parents. They’ve befriended their kids online, participate in their online conversations, comment on their photos and send messages from the lounge room to the bedroom instead of just walking up the hallway and keeping matters that should be kept private, well, private. Don’t believe me? I completely understand. It definitely sounds strange. But the truth is I actually know people like this and well I can only conclude one thing: that these parents, in an attempt to be their teen’s friend rather than their parent, have also been swept up in the Facebook craze and are now suffering from a similar sort of addiction. The apple really does never land far from the tree.
I’m not sure what the experts say about the treatment of such conditions, but I do know one thing; like with all mental disorders, there will be no easy fix. I think that to begin with we all need to take a good look at ourselves and our behavior. If you’re Facebook time is eating into your social time, or your sport time, or your study time, something has gone seriously wrong. You need to go back and readjust, because to keep a healthy balance is the key to a happy, healthy life. It won’t be easy, and it certainly won’t happen overnight, but eventually we are going to be forced to fix this Facebook overload and cure the entire world of FAD. One can only hope.