Thursday, March 20, 2014

Addicted to the "Like" Button?

Facebook Addiction is undeniable, but not inevitable.

In 2005 there were 1 million Facebook Users. Today there are 1.23 billion users. 757 million users log in daily, and there are 5 new profiles created every second. Every 60 seconds there are 510 comments posted, 293,000 statues updated, and 136,000 photos uploaded. And in one day there are 4.5 billion likes generated.

Why are some addicted to Facebook? Robert Morris, a PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab, claims it is an unconscious act when he wants a break from work. “My Facebook habits were so ingrained that I would often find myself visiting the site and logging in well before I noticed any conscious intention to do so. I would be on Facebook, gorging on pet photos, stuck in some weird hypnotic trance, and it would be minutes or even hours before I realized I had no desire to be there in the first place.” I think many people can relate to Robert’s actions, but it doesn’t answer the question about “Why Facebook?”

In a German study, researchers found that one of the answers may be in the Nucleus Accumens which is a small structure in the brain that is responsible for reward processing including money, food, sex and gains in reputation. When Facebook added the thumbs up “like” button in 2009, the action of receiving a like, as well as comments, created a reward system with a positive feedback loop in the brain that activated the nucleus acumens. There is still much research to be done, but it links into a need for positive social connections and a positive reputation. The study found that “As human beings, we evolved to care about our reputation. In today’s world, one way we are able to manage our reputation is by using social media websites like Facebook.”

Whether Facebook overuse comes from distraction from another task, unconscious reaction, or reward seeking behavior, one can mindfully pay attention to their actions around Facebook. The first step in curbing a Facebook Addiction is observing your own behavior. There are several check lists, questionnaires and online quizzes to determine whether or not you have a problem. Some questions to ask yourself are:

  1. Have you tried to reduce the amount of time you spend on Facebook, or even tried to shut it off, and found you couldn’t?
  2. Do you feel the urge to use Facebook more and more?
  3. Do you find yourself less productive in your work and studies?
  4. Do you use Facebook as an escape from problems or stress in your life?
  5. Do you become restless or troubled if you cannot have access to Facebook?
  6. Do you find yourself constantly checking how many people like your posts?

If you answered yes to many of these questions, you might have a problem with Facebook, but recognizing the issue is the first step in making a change in your Facebook behaviors.

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