Facebook Addiction?

Do you ever feel that Facebook has got the better of you? That it has some kind of force that draws you in every time you go near your computer? Well if so you should know that you are not alone.

Two researchers here at MIT have conducted some experiments to see if they could halt their addiction in its tracks. The researchers put some code into their machines that monitors the sites they visit through their browser. When they visit Facebook too often an electric shock is sent through a peripheral device to their keyboard, and they get a jolt.

Now if you have ever spent any time with cows you will know that they respect electric fences because they hurt, and the researchers think that this system might deter them from too much use. They call it Pavlov’s Poke.

And surely enough after a few shocks the boys used Facebook a little less.

Thumbs down.

Thumbs down to Facebook overuse.

There is also the story of a young man who hired a woman through our local newspaper to help him avoid Internet distraction. She sat next to him in his office and slapped him in the face when he lost the thread of his searches. Probably a little cumbersome as a solution though, not to mention pricey. Read the story here.

So the boys came up with an automated version that posts a job request through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service when the quota is reached. The job requires a person to call and abuse you reading from a script, simple and a much better use of human resources I would think.

And we might really be talking about addiction here. A study cited in Forbes by the University of Chicago claims that Facebook is more addictive than cigarettes or alcohol, with the average user spending 400 minutes a month on the site.

Another report from the University of Utah shows that people who use Facebook a lot are led to believe that other people’s lives are better than theirs.

This is an easy conclusion to come to when you look at photos of your friends (and people you don’t really know or never really speak to face to face) while they are on holiday, having fun in clubs, meeting new people and going to music festivals, while you are sitting at home in front of your computer feeling miserable. Photos of arguing with your partner or the kids waking up at 4 in the morning are rarer.

Researchers at the University of Michigan came to the same conclusion. Read their report in full here. This is a brand new piece of research.

The truth is that these social media sites are designed to be both addictive and necessary. They make you feel better in some ways, people of course like you, but they distort views of real life and can lead to distraction and unhappiness.

They make money by selling, so they need as many online presences as they can get and for as long and often as possible. They are (as they openly admit) marketplaces, designed to sell access to their users for publicity purposes. They are not apolitical and have goals, and their success makes or breaks their share price.

On a personal note I recently applied for a job in the USA as a freelance journalist. Although I have lots of experience, good qualifications and a measurable reader base, I got no further than the application form. The employers wanted details of my social network, Facebook, Google plus etc, not my writing.

I had nothing to offer them.

11 thoughts on “Facebook Addiction?

  1. Christopher Roberts

    Okay I get it, your friends all post the best bits of their lives, which is what you see and your life isn’t a ‘best bits’ compilation, therefore you get depressed.

    What if your life is non-stop action packed fun. Could looking at everyone else’s lives (which look dull in comparison) give you a boost?
    I think if you were that lucky, you wouldn’t be bothering with Facebook anyway… answered my own question.

    Do you think posting statuses about only the bad things that happen to me for a week will give all my friends an ego boost? Could be a fun experiment!

    • Maybe, just maybe, it is better to live life than to watch others do it? As in, maybe its not so much that you become depressed when you see others’ posts, as much as that you really just have better things to do than sit on FB all day? 😛

      • You may be right, but as Facebook use is so commonplace it has become part of the culture. It is a part of the fabric of modern society. my mum said the same thing about TV when I was a kid. It is no longer a pastime for the depressed or bored but an integral part of life for the masses.
        Thanks for the comment and welcome to the community.

  2. That is pretty interesting. I agree that some people are on Facebook way too often. I see it first hand. I think Facebook is a great tool when used correctly. I think it is a great way to stay in touch with out-of -towners. It also has a pretty solid private messaging system as well. However, 400 minutes or more a month is just too much, just my opinion.

    • I think the average user description is problematic anyway. I think there are a lot of users who rarely or never go on their site and whose interaction with Facebook is minimal, even though they do have an account. Many users however spend a lot more than 4oo minutes, I mean really a lot more. If you look at usage among teenagers 400 minutes a month is probably a gross understatement.

  3. Concerning your applying for a job as a journalist only to be asked questions about your social network, count me as someone who hates social media with a passion because to me, something that is “social” should remain “social” (i.e. something you share with friends and family) NOT something to be exploited for professional or marketing purposes. Unfortunately, I am definitely in a small minority as Google’s Authorship feature is now blurring the lines between social and professional networking, making them one and the same as far as web content is concerned.

    • I agree with you about the blurring of the lines. I myself don’t use social media apart from for work and I think Google Authorship technology is really aimed at people like me. I do have a Linkedin presence though, and that really is geared towards work. it doesn’t have the social qualities of Facebook though, I only have work relationships on mine.
      I am more fundamentalist than you though, when I want to be social I pick up the phone or leave the house, very much in the minority.
      Thanks for the comment and welcome to the community.

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