If you asked a classroom of college students how many of them have a Facebook account, chances are all but perhaps one or two would raise their hands. A majority would also likely report that they check the site every day, perhaps alongside their e-mail accounts. But a handful might say that not only do they check it every day, but they check it multiple times a day on a smart phone or a campus computer lab, later spending quality time with the social network in their dorms or apartments after all their daytime obligations are over. This handful of students is representative of a growing number of people who can’t seem to make it hour by hour without getting on Facebook or other social networks. This phenomenon in which students become uneasy when they don’t have access to Facebook and fritter away hours of their day mulling over status updates has been dubbed Facebook addiction.
A recent social media blackout experiment at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology revealed that students who were barred from using social media for an entire week at the 800-student college showed signs of addiction. Most could not make it the whole week and would sneak off to check their social networks on their phones. But at the end of the week, some who did forgo their social networking reported that social media had been dominating their lives, and that they had more time that week for other activities and face-to-face interaction with people.
Facebook addiction, or any other type of social media addiction, may not necessarily be a real medical condition that is diagnosed, but it can certainly be a means of escapism that keeps you from facing the real world, experts are saying. A marriage and family therapist was quoted in a CNN Health article as saying that Facebook becomes a problem when it turns into a compulsion in which you "dissociate from the real world and go live in the Facebook world." Problems crop up when individuals ignore family and work obligations because Facebook is more enjoyable to them than the real world.
What does this mean for college students? It means that social networking has the potential to become a compulsion without a student even realizing it. You can find yourself doing poorly in school because of the time you spend on social networks instead of studying. The students in the university experiment did not understand the choke-hold social networks had on their lives until they were asked to give it up and many experienced a breath of fresh air.
You can examine your behavior toward Facebook to determine if you are addicted. Signs of Facebook addiction, according to CNN Health, include the following: losing sleep over Facebook, spending more than an hour a day on Facebook, becoming obsessed with old loves you reconnected with through Facebook, ignoring work to get on Facebook, and getting nervous or apprehensive at the thought of leaving Facebook.
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