What Is Facebook Addiction?

A Facebook addiction is a behavioral addiction where someone compulsively engages in online interactions to the point where it interferes with their functioning at home, work, and school. The signs of Facebook addiction include:

  • Obsessive thoughts about Facebook
  • Use of Facebook to relieve unpleasant emotions in real life
  • Inability to stop or curb Facebook use after several attempts
  • Experiencing distress or withdrawal from not being able to use Facebook
  • Impact on work, school, or relationships due to problematic use of Facebook

Facebook addiction is often included under the umbrella term of social media addiction, but it is important to note that different social media platforms come with their own unique symptoms and risks. When Facebook use becomes a replacement for face-to-face connection, becomes compulsive, or starts causing health issues like sleep disturbances, it may be time to evaluate if there is a social media addiction present.

What Makes Facebook Addictive?

Facebook is addictive due to its algorithms, which are a set of tech rules that decide which posts appear in a person’s feed.

In the early days, the posts with the most likes got the most attention. Over the years, advancements allowed Facebook to personalize every user’s feed based on their preferences, which they learn about by tracking internet activity.

They pay attention to the posts, videos, and advertisements each person likes, shares, or interacts with in any way. Even the amount of time someone spends looking at a photo or post is tracked. This allows Facebook to predict what someone is more likely to engage with and mark that content as more relevant for that user. Using the data they collect, the system predicts what someone wants to see and posts it to their feed. This curated content ends up making a person spend more time on the platform.

While it’s important to have an algorithm that displays relevant content, there is no regard for positive or negative feelings that someone may experience when looking at the posts. For example, using Facebook to obsessively check up on an ex romantic partner, read upsetting news articles, or constantly compare oneself to others can result in feelings of jealousy, fear, anger, and unworthiness.

As of 2024, 42 states are suing Facebook and Instagram, both owned by Meta. The lawsuits claim Facebook deliberately designed programs to hook youth and teens, deceiving the public about the harms of their platform. In a national survey on social media use among youth, researchers found the following:

  • 3 out of 4 teens feel tech companies like Facebook manipulate them to spend more time online.
  • 1 out of 7 teens spend more than 7 hours daily on social media.
  • 1 out of 3 teens stay on social media until midnight or later.

What Causes Facebook Addiction?

Being on Facebook and other social media platforms changes how the brain functions, especially in youth and young adults whose brains are still developing. Facebook use can:

  • Hijack the attention of users.
  • Interfere with normal cognition.
  • Decrease verbal intelligence.
  • Slow maturing of gray and white matter in the brain.

Facebook also impacts behavior. For example, some students show a decline in in-person relationships and socialization, preferring to have Facebook connections instead.

Mental health and personality traits influence addiction to Facebook. Studies show females and people not in relationships tend to have more addictions to Facebook. Also, people with mental health diagnoses had higher levels of social media addiction, including those with:

Being on Facebook can trigger a release of dopamine, the feel-good chemical, giving the user a sense of pleasure and reward. The brain connects that feeling with social media and encourages the person to continue using it, seeking more pleasure, which usually happens when a person gets likes and follows.

When a person doesn’t get likes or followers, there is no dopamine release, and it can leave them feeling depressed. Instead of discontinuing their use of Facebook, they use it even more to chase the “high.” The same is true for addiction to gambling, drugs, alcohol, and other behavioral addictions.

Risk Factors Of Facebook Addiction

Demographics and personal traits can be risk factors for social media and Facebook addiction.

Gender

Females had higher levels of social media addiction when compared to males, possibly due to their desire to enhance communication through social activities. They took more selfies to share online than male social media users.

Impulsivity

Participants who met the criteria for having higher levels of impulsiveness were more likely to develop social media addiction. Impulsiveness to use social media may be due to a need to suppress or exacerbate other feelings, such as boredom or fluctuating attention.

Self-Esteem

People with low self-esteem use Facebook to boost their self-image. Self-esteem was a risk factor when people started seeking positive feedback online. Once they receive it, self-esteem becomes a protective factor.

Emotions

Anxiety and social anxiety are the emotions with the highest risk factor levels. Online social interactions cause much lower levels of stress for people that have trouble engaging in in-person social activity.

Attention To Negative Information

Those with social media addiction tend to display negative attention bias, an effect in which people who struggle with negative emotions seek negative information. The attention of someone experiencing depression, anxiety, or other mental health symptoms is caught easier by negative information.

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Signs Of Facebook Addiction

Warning signs refer to certain behaviors a person exhibits regarding Facebook use. Warning signs of Facebook addiction may include the following:

  • Choosing to spend time on Facebook instead of completing tasks at home, work, or school
  • Choosing to spend time on Facebook instead of with friends, family, or social activities
  • Thinking about social media when not on it
  • Feeling anxious or depressed when not able to use Facebook
  • Isolating or withdrawing from others
  • Lacking sleep due to spending extensive time on Facebook
  • Prioritizing taking and posting pictures on Facebook
  • Being unable to cut down or stop using Facebook
  • Losing interest in former hobbies or activities
  • Declining grades or performance
  • Using Facebook to cope with emotions
  • Having strained, blood-shot eyes
  • Having pain in thumbs, hands, neck, or back

Symptoms Of Facebook Addiction

Symptoms refer to the physical and mental health changes a person experiences due to addiction. Symptoms of Facebook addiction may include the following:

  • Increased anxiety or social anxiety
  • Increased depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor body image
  • Perfectionism
  • Loneliness
  • Increase in suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Fear of missing out
  • Reduction in empathy or compassion for others
  • Changes in viewpoints, values, or beliefs
  • Defensive attitude when confronted about their Facebook use

How Do You Treat Facebook Addiction?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy for internet addiction (CBT-IA) is an effective treatment for Facebook addiction.

CBT-IA involves individual and group therapies that help people control impulses by learning how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors influence their decisions. Other CBT-IA goals include:

  • Understanding cravings
  • Developing behavioral coping strategies to deal with cravings
  • Developing cognitive coping strategies
  • Providing treatment for anxiety, depression, or other mental health symptoms
  • Learning relaxation and stress-management techniques
  • Improving lifestyle skills
  • Improving problem-solving skills
  • Learning relapse prevention skills
  • Establishing a support system

Find Treatment For Social Media Addiction

Online therapy can provide CBT-IA and other behavioral therapies for those with a Facebook addiction. Treatment can help alleviate the stigma of addition while also helping to identify and treat any co-occurring mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety.

If you are ready to get help for your Facebook addiction, don’t wait. Explore our online therapy options today, risk-free.

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