Facebook: A Virtual Addiction

Amanda Valdes; Edited by Ashley Orosco

Gabrielle Babin, AP Lit Set 6

When does online social networking transform into a virtual addiction to the public? The exponential growth in Facebook users has changed the way people spend their time, free or not.  Both the young and the old have become obsessed with the idea of displaying personal information and pictures of themselves and their family and friends, and Academy students are no exception. 

Facebook, a social networking site founded in 2004, as chronicled in the recently released docudrama The Social Network, recently announced its success of gaining 500 million members internationally.  According to the New York Times, the company has developed rapidly, doubling in size just from 2009 and its policies.  Mark Zuckerberg, a sophomore at Harvard University, created the site first for his home campus, and then for other college students across the United States.  It has since evolved into an extensively accepted online place for both teenagers and adults of all ages. 

Facebook epitomizes the concept of Internet profiling.  “Like other social networks, the site allows its users to create a profile page and forge online links with friends and acquaintances. It has distinguished itself from rivals, partly by imposing a spartan design ethos and limiting how users can change the appearance of their profile pages,” claims Adrian Wyld of The New York Times.

But at what point does the allowance of forming a profile page and online links with friends and associates become an obsession?

Cynthia Newton, an interviewee of CNN, asserts that her infatuation with Facebook has gone too far.  “I’m an addict. I just get lost in Facebook.  My daughter gets so [mad] at me, and really it is kind of pathetic. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of. I just get so sucked in.” 

Newton states she wastes twenty hours a week on the social networking site, and has tried to limit her time but has been unsuccessful.  She checks her site almost ten times a day; first thing when she wakes up, logs in up to seven times during the work day, once more when she comes home, and again before she goes to sleep. 

Although “Facebook addiction” is not an actual diagnosed problem, experts state they identify more and more people like Newton who have shifted from social networking into social dysfunction.  Family therapist Paula Pile has clients who deal with Facebook problems.  “It’s turned into a compulsion — a compulsion to dissociate from your real world and go live in the Facebook world.” 

Pile and other therapists used in the interview were fast to denounce Facebook as the problem and that the mass of millions of users function properly. 

In a survey of select teenage students in the Tampa Bay area, 100% admitted to signing onto Facebook daily.  About half claimed to spend at least an hour each day on the website, not including the pulling up of the site while doing other online activities. 

Academy of the Holy Names senior Irene Garcia admitted to spending two hours a night on Facebook.  “It’s just so distracting,” Irene confessed. 

Olivia Jones, junior at the Academy of the Holy Names answered with conviction in stating that she “absolutely goes on Facebook every day.”   When asked, “How many friends on Facebook are your friends with in real life?” none of the interviewees answered “all.”

Social networking, originally a concept for professionals to make important contacts after college, has led to a national phoenomena, affecting young and old alike, leaving many to face the problem of Facebook addiction.  By the way, how many hours do you spend a week on Facebook?