Report Claims Facebook Could Result In Asthma Attacks

The Lancet medical journal published a case study suggesting that Facebook triggered an 18-year-old man's asthma attack.

Psychological stress causes asthma attacks, and seeing an ex-girlfriend’s activity on Facebook qualifies as a type of trigger, according to a case study published in the Lancet medical journal.

Mainstream media outlets have simplified the question into: Does Facebook cause asthma? If it did, up to half a billion people might have had trouble breathing by now. Psychological stress triggers asthma attacks.

I see confusion about the difference between a cause and a symptom. Breakups cause psychological stress. Not taking proper care of yourself after a breakup exacerbates the problem. That includes going to a psychiatrist, who will probably advise you not to go looking for your ex on Facebook.

This flurry of stories about what really causes asthma is just a symptom of Facebook having so many users that media outlets can grab lots of eyes and ears from sensationalizing anything having to do with the social network. So I completely understand why medical professionals wanting to gain notoriety would write the following conclusion in the Lancet:

This case indicates that Facebook, and social networks in general, could be a new source of psychological stress, representing a triggering factor for exacerbations in depressed asthmatic individuals. Considering the high prevalence of asthma, especially among young people, we suggest that this type of trigger be considered in the assessment of asthma exacerbations.

I wish the authors of this case study — Gennaro D’Amato, Gennaro Liccardi, Lorenzo Cecchi, Ferdinando Pellegrino, Maria D’Amato — had written some kind of recommendation about how to use Facebook after a breakup. But that would only require one sentence, hardly enough for an article: Don’t look at it! (Unless you are an emotional masochist.)

Creating a spoof profile to spy on an ex-girlfriend, like the patient described in the Lancet article, is the kind of thing done by someone who needs to get out of the house some more. That is the best way to handle breakups — surround yourself with living, breathing friends during your every waking hour. Don’t sit alone at a computer if you can avoid it. Once you reach a point where you’ve healed enough that you can go online and visit Facebook, don’t allow yourself the temptation to even be able to see what your ex is doing. Apparently, that’s what the ex had been doing, getting on with her life.

The girl had erased him from her list of Facebook friends, while “friending” many new young men. With a new nickname on Facebook, our patient succeeded in becoming her friend once again and finally in seeing her picture on her Facebook profile. The sight of this seemed to induce dyspnoea, which happened repeatedly on the patient accessing her profile.

Changing one’s relationship status to “single” from “in a relationship” does tend to bring prospective suitors out of the woodwork. Often they pounce on a person’s wall way before that individual is ready to date someone else. That kind of activity is too easy to misinterpret when you’re feeling heartbroken. So I hope this kid’s mother helps him get out there and find a life. I’d even suggest that she tell him to block the ex-girlfriend so he can’t see her either.

Readers, can you empathize with this young man’s plight, and what sort of advice would you offer him? How have you handled your own breakups during the Facebook era?