Special Reports

Battling Facebook addiction

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The social networking site Facebook has hundreds of millions of users worldwide. Many of them say they just can't enough. But how much is too much - and when does the obsession become an addiction?

Maria Garcia is a nurse. She tells Action News that on average, she goes to bed at about 3 a.m. and gets up two hours later. But it's not her work with patients that's depriving her of sleep. "I do feel as though I'm very much into Facebook," Garcia said. "I'm very much addicted to it. I spend about four hours in the morning, I go to work and then about three or four hours at night."

If you calculate in weekends, the self-proclaimed Facebook addict logs 56 hours a week on the social networking site. "Everybody at work was talking about it and it seemed really interesting and it was a way to socialize with my friends," Garcia added, "but then, little by little, I got into all the games that are going on and just got addicted to all of it."

The popularity and social acceptance of networking sites is one of the reasons Dr. Joseph Garbley says Facebook addiction is becoming a very real problem.

"I think what happens is there is a certain amount of folks that end up getting lost in that world, Garbley said."That group of people become psychologically dependant on Facebook."

Garbley says unlike alcohol or drugs, social networking addiction is psychological not physical. But he adds it is still a serious problem: "The problem comes in when life intercedes, when school work calls, when relationships demand your attention and you chose Facebook over those relationships."

In his new book titled "Facebook Addiction" author Nnamdi Osuagwu says the work may be fiction but the characters are inspired by friends who spend an excessive amount of time on Facebook.

"You have a story about a mother who neglects her child because of Facebook," said Osuagwu, "and another story about a musician who gets kicked out of his band because of Facebook."

The characters attend a support group which structure mimics Alcoholics Anonymous. Garbley says getting professional help for a Facebook addiction isn't a bad idea.

"What you need to do is seek out a medical health professional," Garbley says, "someone who is going to be able to define the disorder."

So how do you know if you really are addicted to Facebook? Garbley says first try giving up Facebook for one day. If you can't - that's a problem. There are other signs: Facebook takes the place of real life relationships; Facebook takes time or energy that should be devoted to work, school or other activities; You are losing sleep.

Garcia says she always fulfills her responsibilities at work, even on just 3 hours of sleep. But when we suggested giving up Facebook for a week: "I would freak out."

Garbley adds that, as with any addiction, chances are the person is dealing with a larger problem and it is an issue they need to seek help in addressing. He also said because of the sheer numbers of Facebook users, chances are there will be more and more people dealing with this addiction. Garbley said with all the money these social networking sites make it wouldn't be a bad idea for them to carve out a little money for education, treatment and addiction warnings.

(Copyright ©2014 WPVI-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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