It’s official. Facebook addiction is for real. The world’s largest social networking site might just be the Internet version of crack — at least for some.
A Norwegian study has concluded that a “Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale” it built “can be used in epidemiological as well as clinical settings.”
The researchers concluded that women, younger users and “anxious and social insecure” people could be at higher risk of Facebook addiction than other people. Correspondingly, ambitious and more organized people might be at lower risk.
“Our research also indicates that women are more at risk of developing Facebook addiction, probably due to the social nature of Facebook,” Cecilie Schou Andreassen, the lead researcher, was quoted as saying in the journal Psychological Reports. She cited the higher risk of the socially insecure on account of their probable discomfort with face-to-face communication.
By a conservative interpretation, people who score three or above on the Facebook Addiction Scale’s six indicators could be deemed Facebook addicts — just as people who score five out of 10 to be labelled pathological gamblers, or those who score three of seven to be deemed substance addicts under broad criteria set by the American Psychiatric Association at the turn of this century.
However, the researchers themselves did not “examine specific cutoff scores for a categorization of problems with Facebook addiction.” It should also be pointed out that so far pathological gambling is the only behavioral addiction that has been assigned the status of a “psychiatric disorder.”
Classic addiction symptoms
Broadly, high scores on the Facebook Addiction Scale were positively related to Neuroticism and Extraversion, and negatively related to Conscientiousness, and correlated with delayed bedtimes and rising times.
Using broadly accepted academic benchmarks for addiction, researchers at the University of Bergen set the following six major criteria to examine Facebook addiction:
- Salience — the activity dominates thinking and behavior;
- Mood modification—the activity modifies/improves mood;
- Tolerance—increasing amounts of the activity are required to achieve previous effects;
- Withdrawal—the occurrence of unpleasant feelings when the activity is discontinued or suddenly reduced;
- Conflict —the activity causes conflicts in relationships, in work/education, and other activities; and
- Relapse—a tendency to revert to earlier patterns of the activity after abstinence or control.
The Bergen study, led by Andreassen of the university’s Department of Psychosocial Science and the Bergen Clinics Foundation, examined a total of 18 factors — three each linked to the above six.
In the study, 423 college students — 227 women and 196 men — with a mean age of 22 years participated. A smaller sample of 153, 118 women and 35 men, participated in a three-week “test-retest” of the Facebook Addiction Scale. The mean age of the retest sample was 21.3 years. The researchers said tests on a broader may be required to validate their findings.
Last month, Andreassen and her team, working together with researchers in Britain, developed the Bergen Work Addiction Scale, which was examined by the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology. This study examined the habits of 12,135 Norwegian employees from 25 different industries.
Does this means there is potential for a whole new range of Facebook addiction recovery self-help groups. Run via a Facebook Group, of course.