Facebook – More Addictive Than Smoking?

In 2012 Maneesh Sethi, author of the Hack the System blog announced to his followers that he had hired a “slapper”.

His new employee would be paid $8.00 an hour to slap him whenever he jumped onto Facebook.

So how exactly did this start?

Out of curiosity, Sethi decided to use an app called RescueTime to see how much of his time was spent on social media. The result shocked him. It turned out, that Sethi was spending around 29 hours a week on social media sites. This spurred him to post an ad on Craigslist for a slapper. As a result, Sethi happily reported that his productivity rose by 98 percent.

Indeed, when you count the number of groups, pages and games available, it’s easy to see how we can develop an attachment to Facebook. Take Farmville for instance. Farmville is a socially interactive game designed in 2009, which encourages Facebook users to participate in a friendly game of growing virtual vegetables on a virtual farm. Due to it’s ability to instantly immerse players, it received much criticism. Time magazine called Farmville one of the “50 Worst Inventions“, claiming it was engaging players in mindless activity.

One things for sure… I think we are all glad that the constant invites to Farmville are a thing of the past….

According to psychologist Cecilie Schou Andreassen, our fascination for Facebook is a cognitive blend of cultural, social, and psychological elements. Andreassen came up with the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale, or the BFAS, which is designed to assist in studying our fascination with Facebook. After all, we humans are intellectual beings, forever searching for answers, scouring the universe to uncover the unknown. We have this innate curiosity. We are lured to things that not only interest us, but are eager to search out more things to be interested in. Sites like Facebook offer us a one-stop haven for having all of your personal interests automatically pop up on one page, constantly being updated as you scroll, and this is what captures us. It is a reflection of who we are, our likes and wants, they stare right back at us. It is a mirror into our own psyche.

No matter what your personal opinion, social media is here to stay. Like anything from eating too much cake to over exercising, we need to take stock in our own personal lives, and choose when to stop. We can never let any one individual or group dictate this for us. That being said, if you feel that Facebook is an epidemic, and taking up too much of your personal time, then feel free to visit PsychCentral, to get an idea of the hows and whys you are spending so much time involved in social media.

Facebook Addiction Info graphic 2018

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So is Facebook a true addiction? Is it an epidemic or are we doing what humans do naturally, just interacting with each other?

To answer this, psychologist Ofir Turel conducted a study to sort out some of the more far reaching effects Facebook had on its users. Most of us already know that social media can affect how we view ourselves, especially if we have Facebook friends who life more diverse lives. But what about the individual and the concept of addiction? Turel and his associates utilized an MRI to study the brain activity of Facebook users. Here, he took a set of Facebook logos, along with basic traffic signs. When an image popped up, subjects were instructed to decide whether to press a button or not. The results? Well, they stated that those with a Facebook addiction issue paid more attention to Facebook logos than traffic signs. As you can see, it comes down to studies such as this, which give Facebook addiction a bad name. After all, to respond to Facebook cues more than traffic signs, may mean that someone driving today, will respond to their ‘chat ding’ first, while ignoring their driving.

So what do you think? 

Is Facebook just a natural evolution for the way we as humans communicate?

Or do you think companies like Facebook have spent millions of dollars engineering a platform to be as addictive as possible?