In a society awash with digital media, concerns about addiction are natural. But are they unfounded?
American medical discourse is chock full of addictions these days. There's video game addiction. Porn addiction. Gambling addiction. Internet addiction.
And of course: Facebook addiction. At least, that's according to Norwegian researcher Cecilie Schou Andreassen, who says people who can't get enough of the social network show many of the same signs of withdrawal and mood swings associated with gambling junkies.
Although Facebook is not a chemical like alcohol or cocaine, she said in an email to The Atlantic, Facebook users can fit the criteria for addiction that are applied to other things.
All addictions, chemical and non-chemical, appear to comprise six core components: (1) salience (the activity dominates thinking and behaviour), (2) mood modification (the activity modifies/improves mood), (3) tolerance (increasing amounts of the activity are required to achieve initial effects), (4) withdrawal (occurrence of unpleasant feelings when the activity is discontinued or suddenly reduced), (5) conflict (the activity causes conflicts in social relationships and other activities), and (6) relapse (tendency for reversion to earlier patterns of the activity after abstinence or control).
The problem, however, is this: how do you measure addiction to a website? Her attempt, which was published earlier this year in Psychological Reports, is called the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale. Originally, participants were asked 18 questions and those answers were correlated with a variety of other psychological tests and measures of problematic media usage.