Before the advent of social media or more precisely before there was Facebook we associate addiction with such things as illegal substances and sex. Of these two most common forms of addiction, the former was more widespread, which includes alcohol and illegal drugs. The massive popularity of Facebook has ushered a new form of addiction that hooks on people and controls them the way addictive illegal substances do. Facebook, while surprisingly beneficial to society in many ways, has a face that could also draw the darker side of humans.

According to the web site Facebook has 2.01 billion monthly active users as of June 2017. This is a staggering number of people, making Facebook the most popular social media platform on the Internet. The same web site says that there are more women Facebook users than men.

At ordinary glance addiction could be mistakenly understood as just a matter of will power and one’s lack of it. This common mistake is like saying treatment for diabetes and cancer is just a matter of will power. Psychiatrist and addiction expert Dr. Akikur Mohammad says that addiction is a disease of the brain, and therefore it must be treated with appropriate medicine. At least this is what science tells us about substance addiction.

But about Facebook addiction? Is it similar to drug addiction? According to a study published by O. Turel et al, which appeared in the December 2014 issue of the PubMed.Gov “technology-related addictions share some neural features with substances and gambling addictions, but more importantly they also differ from such addictions in their brain etiology and possibly pathogenesis, as related to abnormal functioning of the inhibitory-control brain system.”

Turel and his colleagues used brain imaging to study participants’ brains. The participants looked at a series of computer images, such as Facebook logos and neural traffic signs and pressed a button. The study suggested that participants who scored higher on the questionnaire are more likely to hit the button for Facebook when compared to the neural images, indicating the Facebook cues were much more potent triggers in participants’ brains. This means that there is a compulsive relationship with the web site than to neural signs.

While the brain scans suggest that Facebook addicts experienced greater activation of their amygdala and striatum, the brain regions involved in impulsive behavior, which are on par with those who are addicted to cocaine, however, the brain regions that inhibit this behavior seem to work just fine.

More studies are needed to verify the difference between Facebook addiction and drug addiction to better treat those individuals who have become hooked on Facebook. But since, there is a substantial difference between drug addiction and Facebook addition, it cannot yet be clinical stated that a medical procedure should be developed to treat Facebook addiction.

In another interesting study on Facebook addiction by psychologist CecilieSchouAndreassen of the University of Bergen in Norway, several facts were discovered about Facebook addiction. Among these facts are: (1) Facebook addiction occurs more regularly among younger than older users, (2) people who are organized and more ambitious are less at risk from Facebook addiction, (3) people who are anxious and socially insecure use Facebook more than those with lower scores on those traits, (4) women are more at risk of developing Facebook addiction, and (5) Facebook addiction is related to extraversion.

The study by Andreassen also corroborated other studies which suggested that Facebook addiction resemble those of drug addiction, alcohol addiction and chemical substance addiction. The psychologist also developed the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale based on six basic criteria, using this scale (1) very rarely, (2) rarely, (3) sometimes (4) often and (5) very often. The addiction scale suggested that scoring of “often” or “very often” on at least four of the six basic criteria may suggestion addiction to Facebook.

While these studies focus on Facebook addiction, Facebook users also expose themselves to emotional and psychological harms based on their reaction to Facebook posts. A January 24, 2013 online issue of Fox News suggests that Facebook users are generally lonelier.

The Fox News report said that based on a study there is a significant emotional damage experienced by users who were looking at positive posts and posts of Facebook friends who were smiling and looking happy. It has been observed that in some respects, Facebook actually has become a forum for people to flaunt their achievements and success. It identified vacation photographs as having caused the highest level of resentment among Facebook users who admitted to having experienced high amount of envy and women in their mid-30s and 40s are the most to have experienced envy the highest upon looking at photographs showing friends flaunting their success.

It is now evident that Facebook is creating real problems on people even as it also has helped many people in so many ways. As a tool for social networking, Facebook is an effective way to get connected with professional colleagues and business associates. But we could no longer discount the rising number of people becoming addicted to it and, also those who experience negative emotional and psychological experiences upon seeing other people showing photographs as proof of their success and achievement.

Facebook is not going to disappear anytime soon. In fact, if we will be honest, it might stay in our social and personal lives longer. This should mean an effective way to handle and address these problems should be designed to help those who are struggling with Facebook addiction or with negative experiences as Facebook users.

If the facts at the web site are true, we should be alarmed at the data that 19% of Facebook users are addicted to it. This percentage would translate to hundreds of millions of people afflicted with this new form of addiction. Public health professionals and policy makers are increasingly paying attention to this problem and we could expect that in no time, they will act to deal with it to protect the mental health of the population.

Public health professional Dr. Keith Ablow listed top reasons why Facebook causes problems. These are (1) friends become envious of your pictures of success, (2) people use Facebook to avoid real human interaction, (3) Users avoid their problems with Facebook (4) Facebook makes it easier to avoid making needed life changes and (5) Facebook use can lead to less intimacy in your personal life.

Studies Indicate Facebook Affect Public Health Negatively

While public health professionals have not yet weighed in their voices on this emerging problem of Facebook addiction, we could explore positive ways to deal with this problem though practical behavior-based steps. As we have noted, previously Facebook has not yet entered the official lexicon of psychological and psychiatrist disorders. For that reason, only practical steps could be made to address this problem and help individuals deal with it.

Keep track of the amount of time you are spending on Facebook.
Ask your family members and friends on how they feel on the amount of time you spend on Facebook.
Set the number of time that you should stay on Facebook.
Check your Facebook settings to limit the automatic feeds and status updates.
Use Facebook more positively, such as in building business and professional network or to sell products online.
These are, well, practical approaches and steps that you could do to deal with Facebook addiction. I believe you can actually overcome it.