While social media can help us keep in touch with our friends and aware of important events, some people can become dependent on that connection to an unhealthy degree. Abstinence from social site use may create discomfort and distress, and some may find that despite significant negative consequences, they remain preoccupied with social sites and continue to use them.
Some clinicians have recognized the extent of such social site compulsivity as a disorder in itself. These types of clinical problems are referred to in some circles as Facebook Addiction Syndrome (FAS) or Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD). While Facebook appears to be the most used social media site at approximately 350, 000, 000 users worldwide, other sites such as MySpace and Twitter are also generally included in discussions of FAS and FAD. The behaviors, dynamics and negative consequences of compulsive use are considered similar among them all.
Ironically, there are ‘support groups’ on Facebook that describe themselves as compulsive site users providing support for each other. It is generally thought that such groups further reinforce the use of the site and are of very little therapeutic value. Support groups for compulsive online use should be sought offline. Providers who treat other compulsive disorders can offer assistance or assess needs and make appropriate referrals for help.
A recent study found that 33% of college students say they are spending 1-2 hours a day on the Facebook site. Another 12% report using 2-4 hours a day; and 2.8% report usage of 4-7 hours per day.
The online study was conducted in April of 2009 and included 1,342 students ages of 18-27 on four college campuses. More than half (54%), reported that they were neglecting important areas of their life as a result of spending too much time on these sites. For those admitting they might have a problem, 12.7% believed they were addicted and 8.7% were unsure.