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Reasons Why You May Be Addicted to Facebook

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Reasons Why You May Be Addicted to Facebook

Can’t Resist Checking Social Media?
David Smallwood
David Smallwood More by this author
Jun 10, 2014 at 07:15 AM

Are you one of those people who just can’t resist checking your Facebook page, no matter where you are and what you’re doing? How often do you log on? Once a day? Twice? Every 20 minutes? Perhaps you’re constantly peeking at Facebook while you’re at work, even though you know your boss doesn’t approve? Well, you’re certainly not alone. With well over a billion registered users around the globe, it’s obvious that whatever Facebook offers, a lot of people want it. And the reason for this worldwide obsession with Mark Zuckerberg’s social network is because when we use Facebook there are several complex emotional processes at play.

When we go online and see that we have lots of friends, it reassures us that we’re loved and valued. We feel popular and liked, and this boosts our self-esteem. It gives us a little buzz and we feel better about ourselves, and this can be very addictive. In fact, social networking can become a dangerous obsession – and for those of us who have an addictive nature it can lead to consequences that are highly negative. You could find that Facebook starts getting in the way of important things in your life that you neglect to do as a result. Or maybe you wake up exhausted in the mornings because you’ve spent half the night trawling around on your mobile or PC.

If you find yourself regularly experiencing niggling little worries about how people will interpret what you’ve posted—or you fret about what others have said—then it could be a clue that you’re developing an unhealthy relationship with social networking. Of course, there’s nothing evil about the idea of Facebook in itself and I use it myself as a communication tool. But if you find yourself becoming a slave to the buzz it can give you then it could be a sign that you suffer from deep insecurity.

The problem for some of us is that it can create an altered reality in which everybody seems to be having a great time, even when their life might actually be falling apart. When Andy Warhol said that in the future everybody would be famous for 15 minutes, he underestimated it, because these days everybody wants to be famous—and all the time—on Facebook. And this creates an expectation that everything ought to be perfect all the time—so when things go wrong in your off-line life, or you find yourself bombarded with messages from all these friends who seem to have wonderful lives, you end up wondering why your own life doesn’t run so smoothly.

Through my work as a therapist, I’ve encountered numerous young women (and some men), who panic if they can’t check Facebook, yet when they do they go into meltdown because everyone seems so be doing so much better than them. It forms a vicious circle. You go online looking for affirmation in order to give yourself a boost—but you end up feeling awful, which in turn makes you all the more likely to go searching for a boost again. It is for this reason that I normally advise rehab patients who are in recovery from addictions or eating disorders to completely avoid Facebook. Experience has taught me that recovering anorexics—who typically have low self-esteem—can be particularly vulnerable. 

As I explain in my book, Who Says I'm An Addict - addicts are people who by nature are emotionally codependent on others (this is when we rely on other people to validate our sense of self-worth, rather than having our own healthy levels of esteem). And this being the case, it’s easy to see how Facebook can become a dangerous jungle in which we go searching for validation, because we can rarely live up to the false expectations the social network creates. At its best, social networking fulfills a very deep human need to feel connected to others. The irony is that sometimes it does the just opposite.


About Author
David Smallwood
David Smallwood, author of Who Says I'm An Addict is a leading therapist who previously managed the addiction unit at the Priory Hospital North London and he is currently Treatment Director at the One40 Group in Harley Street.  Continue reading