Thursday, June 28, 2012

Facebook Obsession

According to the book, 50 Signs of Mental Illness, obsessions are "unwanted thoughts that you cannot get out of your mind" [1].  Obsessions are not mere fleeting unwanted thoughts, which everyone has at times, instead these thoughts are the type that consume a person.  While the urge to check Facebook and other (a)social networking sites may not always be severe enough to call OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), the similarities are striking.

Obsession is also different than addiction, but they are similar.  Addiction is defined as:
"the compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, alcohol, or Facebook) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly : persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful"
While obsession is:
"a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling; broadly : compelling motivation"
Addiction to Facebook is the act of a routine habit of checking Facebook, not wanting to give it up, denying that you have a problem, and realizing that you spend far too much time on the site.  Addiction can lead to thinking about the site while offline, feeling the need to sign on at particular times (such as when awakening or before going to bed), and becoming angry if you are not able to check it.

Obsession on the other hand is the constant thinking about sites such as Facebook.  Are you preoccupied with thoughts about what you will post next, how to improve your profile, what your friends on Facebook are doing, or what you should have said in response to another person's post?  Does Facebook displace other hobbies or activities in your life?  Was there something that you were once passionate about, something that once occupied your mind and time?  Was it a person, a hobby, or your own business?  Do you spend much of your time talking about Facebook and (a)social networking?  Are you "so obsessed that you think and talk only about [(a)social networking sites] to the exclusion of other social activities?" [1].

When you travel, do you find yourself jealous if someone else is using Facebook on a tablet or on their phone?  Perhaps you have abnormal cravings to use Facebook (this is also a sign of addiction).

Some people use Facebook to such an extent that their profile has to be perfectly ordered and organized.  I have known individuals who spend hours upon hours making their profiles perfect.  Once their profile is finished, they start over, spending inordinate amounts of time reshaping and reordering their profile.  When one has multiple Facebook profiles that they do reorganize and reorder, such as for pets, the dead, and video game characters, there is an apparent problem.  When others suggest that the person should log off Facebook and do something else they become anxious and irritated.

There are many people out there who are obsessed with Facebook.  Perhaps that is what brought them to this blog.  How does one treat obsession?  Talking to a doctor is a good way to start.  There are many support groups and psychologists who specialize in obsession.  Facebook obsession is just as real as any other obsession.  It may be hard to get a loved one away from Facebook if they are obsessed.  Chances are that they will not want to move on from Facebook until something else takes its place.  Removal could result in depression, anger, or lethargy.

The internet has become a place for the downtrodden and the sick to find their place in the world.  Social networking sites provide a safe haven for those who feel that they do not belong in the outside world.  That being said, it is easy to imagine how sites such as Facebook could become the object of extreme obsession.  However, one does not need to have a "mental illness" to be obsessed with Facebook.  In fact, anyone can become obsessed with the site, and the first step in ridding one's self of obsession is to leave the site.  If you want to know how to get away from what is perhaps the worst site on the internet, read this post.  If you already have, my hat is off to you.  You can have an amazing and full life with social interaction that those on Facebook can only dream of if you let go of (a)social networking.  Ask yourself: has your career, your hobbies, your schooling, or your family suffered because of your presence on (a)social networking?  Do you know someone that once was not glued to the computer, tablet, or cell phone, but who now is?  Do you dream of the days where social interaction meant going to the park, church, miniature golf, or camping without the constant buzz of a mobile phone?  There is no reason why that life can not exist.  Like most things in life, it comes down to the choices you make.  If you truly do not desire to be on Facebook, there is no reason you should be.

[1] James Whitney Hicks, M.D., 50 Signs of Mental Illness, Yale University Press, 2005.


  1. Jryad, you are right on the money. I have seen so many waste their lives and alienate others in real-time conversation because of this obsession. Not working, not volunteering, not engaging in education, neglecting hobbies yet have such interest in the internet lives of others. Life is way too short. I am seriously considering giving up facebook. A "friend of a friend" constantly posts about exerpts from this book she is writing about HERSELF. As if her life is that interesting. It's really sad and pathetic. Go and get a real interesting life and maybe when you've made a mark on the world, someone else will write a book about YOU. How delusional and obsessive.

  2. Hi Jryad. I am currently in the process of writing an essay on the downside of social networking, particularly facebook, for a university class. One of my points is that facebook causes unhealthy competition, jealousy, and comparisons between one's self and others. I was wondering if you could write a post on your thoughts about this?
    Thanks so much