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Facebook addiction could point out underlying problems


The social media website Facebook has been around for 10 years, making it easy for friends and family to share information with one another.

Doctors said a self-evaluation craving that comes with a membership could point out more underlying problems.

"At work, home," said Michael Szuba, a Facebook user from New Britain. "It's addicting."

Facebook specializes in sharing status updates in the form of text, pictures and links with whoever is accepted onto a "friends list." Posts could also be shared with the public.

"I'm a life coach so I usually post about something that I'm working on every day or some useful tidbit," said George Herrick, of New Britain.

Herrick said he's logged on a fair amount but is conscious of how much he posts so as to not overload his friends' feeds.

"I try to limit it to a half hour twice a day most days," he said. "It's that or less."

Others say they can't update their friends enough.

"I'll be out to dinner and they'll be like, 'Why are you on your phone?' And I'll say, 'I'm on Facebook,'" said Szuba. "Oh, this is real life and that's Facebook."

Doctors said being addicted to Facebook is not a diagnosable disorder.

"There becomes that obsessive quality," explained Dr. Laura Saunders, a psychologist at the Institute of Living in Hartford. "People feel the need to be checking things continuously. As if it has an impact on their day-to-day functioning. And that's how people treat it."

Saunders said Facebook users can perform a self-evaluation to see if their usage has reached an unhealthy level. They also said it's hard for a lot of people to admit that they have a problem.

"You take that self-evaluation and you say, 'Wow, this is really starting to have a negative impact on my life. I'm not spending time with my children, not spending time with my spouse without constantly checking things and looking for that external validation,'" said Saunders.

She said that includes checking excessively for "likes" to feel accepted or accomplished and keeping tabs on friend totals and only posting about positive things.

There's also losing track of time both personally and professionally.

These are signs for some people, according to Saunders, that can point to more underlying problems like feeling lonely or left out.

"People who have a lot of social disorders," she explained. "Anxiety and fear connecting with others. That can often be a way for them to start a real live connection, but it's not a substitute."

Saunders recommended answering these questions to see if Facebook is a problem:

  • Is Facebook the first and last thing you check each morning and every night?
  • Does it hinder your functioning?
  • Are you failing to meet work or personal expectations?

"Try to reduce it first," Saunders said. "See if we can just reduce it on your own and take a step back. Then you need to try and totally eliminate that temptation from your life."

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