The enormously popular social media site Facebook reported over 128 million daily users in the U.S. in 2014. That’s 40 minutes a day, on average, from 40% of our population.
In a study, researchers assessed whether evidence supports the existence of Facebook addiction.
A large footprint among Americans online
The Pew Internet Project revealed that 71% of online adults use Facebook. Other findings included:
- 23% of online adults use Twitter
- 26% use Instagram
- 28% use Pinterest
- 28% use LinkedIn
Facebook fans regularly point to upsides, such as communicating with multiple people simultaneously, easily sending and receiving visual media, and viewing humorous or uplifting posts from others.
They also like staying current with others’ lives, the ability to “like” comments or other posts, and gathering personal or cause-related support.
Roughly half of all Facebook users have at least a couple of hundred friends on the site. Generally speaking, younger adults have far more Facebook friends than older adults.
Context for an addiction claim
In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) began acknowledging behavioral addiction. Instead of a compulsion towards drugs or alcohol, sufferers are driven to overindulge in everyday activities like eating, exercising and cyber-surfing. Many of their brain changes and dysfunctional behaviors resemble those of substance abusers.
By definition, a behavioral addiction has symptoms that include:
- Loss of control over behavior participation
- Use of a behavior to escape unpleasant situations or emotional states
- The appearance of a withdrawal-like state of mind when access to a behavior is not possible
- The experience of clearly damaging personal or social outcomes as a consequence of the behavior
- Continuation of excessive behavior participation after exposure to damaging personal or social outcomes.
Evidence for Facebook addiction
The Journal of Behavioral Addictions report used data gathered from 33 previous studies. Nine of these examined Facebook use in an addiction context, while the remaining 24 addressed one or more aspects of the reasons frequent users access the site.
The researchers concluded that motivations for frequent Facebook use include:
- Keeping relationships alive
- Escaping boredom
- Camaraderie or togetherness
These motivations may sometimes promote excessive Facebook use, which can fringe into the symptoms of behavioral addiction. However, the researchers also concluded that, so far, studies have failed to establish a consistent method of identifying cases of addicted use.
The study’s authors recommend that future Facebook addiction researchers focus at least part of their efforts on linking the underlying motivations for use of the site to specific patterns of addictive behavior. They also recommend that future researchers work to establish a consistent definition of exactly what might and might not constitute a Facebook addiction.