18 to 24 Insight: The Sticky Business of Facebook Addiction

By Nina Spezzaferro 18 To 24 Insight Archives

Last week, a fellow Facebook-obsessed friend sent me a New York Times article titled “How Sticky Is Membership on Facebook? Just Try Breaking Free.” I assumed the article was about the psychology of Facebook addiction, something even a recent iPhone commercial is capitalizing on. I was disappointed, however, to realize the article was about deactivated accounts still showing up in search results. One user, who spent two months trying to have his account deleted, quoted an Eagles song to describe Facebook: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” And though the use of this quote was intended to refer to the storing of information on Facebook, I felt it was applicable to a more intangible dependence on the social networking site.

I joined Facebook nearly four years ago when I was told it was like Friendster, only better. I would log on once, maybe twice a week. My Facebook usage remained steady until the News Feed feature was added. And though a friend and I made a pact to cancel our accounts if Facebook didn’t remove the News Feed after a fierce backlash from users, we never did follow through. The News Feed privacy settings that Facebook immediately set in place seemed a fair compromise. Little did I know that the exact feature, which almost made me cancel my account, would eventually double, then triple, then quadruple (you get the picture) the time I would spend on Facebook.

The ever-changing update all of my Facebook friends had me coming back for more. Joining groups named “I Look at Facebook Late at Night Instead of Studying” and “I Have a Crush On Someone But All I Do is Look at Their Facebook Profile Late at Night” made me feel like I wasn’t alone, kind of like joining an Alcoholics Anonymous group that meets at a bar. Eventually I was visiting Facebook daily. Daily became twice a day- once before work and once after. Shortly after my usage increased to twice a day, I needed to be on Facebook for a job-related project. At this point, I knew I’d just have to accept my addiction.

The allfacebook blog recently posted a list of 10 reasons you’ve had too much Facebook. My personal favorite is the one for which I’m most guilty. “You always have an instance of Facebook running… Bonus points if you have more than 5 instances because you are playing a game and browsing through your ex-girlfriend’s profile at the same time.” With the added features of applications and friend filters, I’ve been known to play Oregon Trail, checking which of my friends are online and trying to find pictures of a boyfriend’s ex, all at the same time, in multiple windows. It’s a great exercise in multi-tasking.

Now that I can watch YouTube videos, browse and post photos, shop for music and communicate with friends in a centralized location, it shouldn’t be a shock that I’m spending more time on Facebook and less time on YouTube, Flickr, iTunes and email. So you could say that Facebook is just a different means to the same end- realizing it’s 2 in the morning and you still haven’t done your homework.

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