No time for Facebook?

“I’m not addicted to Facebook. I only use it when I have time: lunch time, break time, bed time, off time, this time, that time, any time, all the time…”

We all have one, a friend who insists on relaying brain numbing updates involving mundane activities, capturing every drink they’ve necked and each course consumed with accompanying photographs, constantly sharing them with the world of social media. We also have those friends who, when faced with the prospect of entering a no Wifi zone, would rather wait outside monitoring updates on Facebook  for fear of missing out than enjoy a ‘real life’ activity.

It isn’t surprising then to hear that social media has been listed among alcohol, cigarettes and narcotics as a highly addictive ‘drug’. The figures are pretty scary reading too – in March 2012, for example, Facebook enjoyed an average of 526 million daily users with an average of 398 million users classed as ‘active’ for at least six out of seven days.

In the same month, an average of more than 300 million photos were uploaded to Facebook every day. And more than 125 billion friend connections had been made on Facebook by the end of March 2012. Frighteningly, that’s nearly 18 times the number of people on Earth.

Twitter has enjoyed a similarly successful uptake since its launch in 2006. The ‘real-time information network ‘ took three years, two months and one day to originally reach its billionth tweet from launch, a figure it now achieves in just a week. The average number of tweets sent per day has also spiked from 50 million to a staggering 140 million over the last year.

As the startling figures suggest, social media is ever increasingly becoming part of every day lives, leading psychologists to acknowledge social media addiction is real – and now it can be measured. Researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway have developed a new tool, the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale.

With 85 per cent of users logging into Facebook daily, the scale allows users to measure their dependency on the social networking site by answering six basic questions with how closely they reflect their behaviour. Those who answer ‘often’ or ‘very often’ to at least four of the questions are considered ‘addicted’. The scale is based on the same six core elements of addiction used by doctors to identify alcoholics and drug users.

According to the scale, certain groups of people are more susceptible to online networking addiction such as women who are drawn in by the ‘social’ aspect. Will the acknowledgement of this problem allow social media users to address their dependency? As recognising the problem is often half the battle, the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale could be the first step in addressing what might well become a dominant addiction of the 21st century.

Find out if you are verging on social media dependence by taking the test here

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