Facebook is a portal that provides users with direct access to a large number of friends, family members, and acquaintances, making it useful during stressful times for seeking support from others. This reality may put some users at risk of developing ‘Facebook addiction,’ a new study warns, if it becomes a substitute for offline support from people in one’s daily, physical life.
Facebook is a useful tool for many and a vital portal to the external world for others. Individuals who suffer from health problems or experience other limitations may use Facebook as a way to connect with other people, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Depending on the social network for support during trying times, however, may result in ‘Facebook addiction’ among some vulnerable users.
The findings come from Ruhr-University Bochum, where researchers evaluated more than 300 Facebook users for stress levels, daily Facebook use, and how each participant felt if they weren’t able to get online. The results, though concerning, aren’t terribly surprising: higher levels of daily stress were associated with how intensely the participants used Facebook.
These users are at greater risk of developing ‘a pathological addiction’ to Facebook, the study found. The risk is mitigated by receiving offline support from friends and family in real life, however, highlighting the importance of prioritizing relationships outside of the social network. Ultimately, the users who lacked offline support were at the greatest risk of developing Facebook addiction.
What could be considered pathological social network use? The study points toward increasing preoccupation with and time spent on Facebook, feeling uncomfortable when one is unable to use Facebook, and negative consequences in one’s real life results in a ‘vicious circle’ in which people start prioritizing Facebook over forming real-life support systems.
Facebook users who are concerned about developing an unhealthy relationship with the social network may benefit from prioritizing real-life relationships and seeking out new connections with people who can offer support outside of the Internet.