As a species, we spend around 700 billion minutes on Facebook every month. What started as a small networking website for a handful of elite college students quickly turned into a worldwide superpower reportedly worth $50 billion. Facebook is now an integral part of almost everyone’s life and has turned into something more meaningful than a website. It has become a serious means of communication, social status, and expressionism. Facebook is a major constituent of modern life.
Most see Facebook as a convenient tool, and some have started to see it as a Facebook addiction. And obviously, most would agree that Facebook is, overall, beneficial. But others see it as a threat. People no longer talk to each other in person; they instead spend hours chatting. Users robotically stare into a virtual arena riddled with gossip and Likes and can anonymously stalk anyone they wish. Many simply spend too much time on Facebook and allow it to dictate their days. If used in excess, Facebook has been proven to destroy relationships, hamper careers, cause insomnia, and even procure a sort of high. And now, some are arguing that Facebook can, like with drugs, be the fuel to a fully serious addiction.
A 21-year-old college student, whom we shall call Ms. T, spends at least 8 hours a day on Facebook. “I get a physical high – like a rush – when I receive news or notifications,” she said. “It’s the first thing I do when I wake up and the last thing I do before I fall asleep.” Ms. T also reported that Facebook curbed her social life and impacted her grades. She explains, “My grades have dropped […] because of my Facebook habit. My GPA has gone down a lot, and I’m starting to regret it.” She also said that because of Facebook (and the rest of the internet), her bedtime quickly changed from a healthy 11 pm to an insane 5 am. When asked if she thought that she could go for an entire day without Facebook, Ms. T laughed – or rather – LOL’ed.
Other self-acclaimed Facebook addicts display similar symptoms. A 24-year-old graduate student named Alice told a local news channel about her compulsive need to check the website 2 or 3 times every hour. She explained that she rarely knew why she was on the website; her visits had become a sort of compulsion. Another addict reported that you look outside, and it’s the day, and then look outside again, and it’s night. The lack of sleep, exercise, and anti-social behavior all seem to be side effects of excessive Facebook use. There have even been cases of violent behavior because of it.
There are around 2.936 billion active Facebook users in the world, and many of them spend hours on the website every day. But only a small percentage would consider themselves addicted. Maybe using Facebook is but a fragment of a bigger online-ification of society. And, is this addiction even legitimate? One could argue, for example, that dining in fancy restaurants and eating delicious food is addictive. But does this make it a disorder worthy of medical recognition? Perhaps the term addiction should be used more sparingly for more pressing issues.
There is no clear-cut answer to these questions, as they are ambiguous. It is fair to say that excessive heroin use is more dangerous than excessive Facebook use. As many clinicians argue, there are practical problems with these sorts of nouveau addictions. Namely, most insurance companies would not fund a stint at a rehabilitation center because of a Facebook addiction. And, a website is not a substance. However, unlike they say, eating in delicious restaurants, Facebook has slowed down the lives of millions. Facebook addicts exhibit symptoms like drug addicts, and there is an emerging throng who are starting to gain recognition. Facebook addiction may eventually evolve into a serious, acknowledged disorder soon. OMG! I’ve gtg, though. I think I have like 12 notifications.