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Are You Addicted to Facebook? 

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Optima Employee Assistance Clinical Director Don Martin Offers Some Insight

MyWho? Spacewhat? In the fast paced social media world, MySpace is a thing of the past. The hot social networking site now is Facebook. Although, other new social media sites have also made their debut, Facebook remains one of the most used websites. Originally, it was an exclusive club; only college students had access. When Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerman, decided to open the doors to everyone, the numbers went through the roof.

Facebook now has more than 400 million active users with half of them logging onto the site every day. There are countless forms of entertainment on the site; one could spend hours sifting through the pages. For some users, that’s exactly what they do.

Facebook Addiction is a term used just like any other form of addiction. A person may not go into physical withdrawal, but according to Don Martin of Optima EAP, they will certainly go into psychological withdrawal. “If you take Facebook away from someone who is addicted, they will have anxiety issues because they are used to dealing with it on an ongoing basis and they don’t want to stop.”

A person is addicted to Facebook if they prefer interacting with others on Facebook instead of interacting through activities in person, or if it becomes a compulsive behavior. Someone who only checks Facebook twice a day probably doesn’t have a problem, but if they are checking it every hour, then they may be addicted. Symptoms are easy to spot; if a person is spending more time on Facebook than engaging in real life relationships, they probably are addicted.

According to Martin, if you suspect you are addicted to Facebook, try going 24 hours without checking it. “If you can do that, then great. Pat yourself on the back. If you can’t, then maybe it’s time to seek some professional help.”

Martin suggests setting limits for time on Facebook; baby steps are still steps. Start by checking Facebook just a few times a day. It’s also important to remember this is not the only way to interact with the world. It’s just one method. What did you do before Facebook came along? Try doing that again.

As for kids? Martin’s advice is simple. “If you think your kids are addicted to Facebook, then turn off the computer. As parents you have the power to control the situation. Use that power to implement rules and set boundaries.”

When talking about addiction, even Facebook knows they have a dilemma. After all, they have their very own Facebook Addiction page. Counter productive or genius? One may scoff, but what’s the first website a person who is addicted to Facebook will visit? 

Donald R. Martin is the clinical manger for the Employee Assistance Program at Optima Health, a Virginia-based health plan with more than 425,000 members, nationally-recognized for its quality, service and innovative programs. Optima Behavioral Health is one of Virginia’s largest and most experienced behavioral managed care organizations with 15 years of experience, 296,000 members and nearly 3,500 providers across the state.

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