Facebook Addiction: How to Control the Social Media Habit

Woman with facebook addiction on computer while partner sleeps
Facebook addiction can damage relationships. RapidEye/Getty Images

While Facebook addiction is not a recognized condition, there has been increasing concern from Facebook usersand those who care about them—that Facebook can be addictive and that Facebook use carries several potentially harmful effects.

It's important to know that addiction has a number of characteristics, including the amount of time spent on the behavior, the exclusion of other behaviors, and the negative impact on important areas of life.

Remember, many people log on to Facebook every day with no harmful consequences. But if you or someone you care about seems to be becoming addicted to Facebook, or is developing problems related to Facebook use, here are some suggestions for dealing with them.

Please note, these suggestions do not constitute medical advice, and you should consult your doctor if you think you may have a genuine physical or psychological problem.

Are You Spending Too Much Time on Facebook?

The first step is to establish how much time is spent on Facebook. Even if you are looking at Facebook every day, you may not be using Facebook excessively.

Start by using my tips for students using the internet. Your total screen time – excluding work and school-related computer use – should not exceed two hours per day. This includes television and texting.

Suggestion: If you are spending more than two hours per day on screen time, and you think Facebook is the culprit, decide how much time you can realistically spend on Facebook, while allowing for the rest of your screen time to stay within 2 hours.

Then choose the time of day you will log onto Facebook. For example, you could allow yourself half an hour in the evening each day, or you could divide it into 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening. Then use a timer and stop when the alarm tells you time is up.

Is Facebook Becoming Too Important?

Think about whether Facebook time has become the most important thing in your life, compared to other activities, including work, school, recreation, real time with friends and family, and other interests.

If Facebook is top of the list, there might be a problem developing. And if other activities are being given up to provide more time for Facebook use, there is definitely a problem with prioritizing.

Pay special attention to the following:

  • Are you neglecting your hygiene, need for exercise, or healthy eating?
  • Are you isolating yourself by spending time on Facebook rather than having real life relationships?
  • Are you failing at school or work, because of spending too much time on Facebook?

These can turn into serious harms that can cause real problems in a person’s life.

Suggestion: Make a list of all the things you would like to be doing, instead of spending time on Facebook. Then start to plan your time with at least one activity you would like to be doing instead of spending time of Facebook each day. For example, if you would like to read a book, but haven’t had time, take the book with you when you go out, and take it out and read it during your break instead of logging onto Facebook. The activities you use to replace Facebook time can be quite small, but make sure you follow through and do at least one every day.

And three meals a day, a shower every day, and regular bathroom visits should take place every day.

Is Facebook Causing You Emotional Problems?

Facebook can start out nice, but quickly turn nasty. Sometimes, people can become very upset and preoccupied with things that are posted up on Facebook. Have any of the following happened to you?

  • Have you lost sleep over something someone has posted up on Facebook?
  • Have you been cyber-stalked, or cyber-bullied on Facebook?
  • Have you received a sext through Facebook?
  • Have you been upset by someone else tagging a picture of you on Facebook?

Suggestion: Never accept a friend request from someone you do not know. Unfriend anyone who has cyber-stalked, cyber-bullied, or sexted you on facebook immediately, and add them to your blocked list. If you have a large number of Facebook friends, combining work relationships and acquaintances, open a LinkedIn account and move all your professional contacts to that account. You can email them to explain you are using LinkedIn for your professional network, and Facebook for close friends and family. Then delete anyone you don’t trust or know well. If one of your friends repeatedly posts comments you find disturbing or offensive, you can hide their comments without unfriending them. Check out the privacy settings to prevent others being able to see tagged photos of you.

Is Facebook Bringing Out Your Bad Side?

Some people are bothered by the way Facebook can bring out their bad side. Whether it is posting comments that hurt others’ feelings, posting up pictures that show you in a bad light, or generally getting a little too nosy with other people’s business, sometimes your fingers can type a little faster than your brain can think through the possible short- and long-term effects.

Suggestion: If you feel Facebook is bringing out your bad side, it might be time for a hiatus. Quit Facebook for a month, then try again, with some boundaries for yourself about what you will and won’t do online.

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