Facebook is worse than 'da crack

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

You may not be addicted to heroin or angel dust, but more university students than ever are struggling with a debilitating vice: Facebook addiction.

The popular social networking website is commonly used to reunite old friends, post images, arrange events and even sell old textbooks. Among the 35,000 Western students and alumni who use the site, some users develop addictive habits.

No, this is not a joke.

Addiction expert and professor at King’s University College Rick Csiernik called Facebooking a “compulsive behaviour.”

Frequent messages, invites and other notifications persuade users to check more often. Csiernik calls this phenomenon “intermittent reinforcement.”

“Users get an emotional reward,” he said. “They feel both wanted and noticed.”

Not everyone is susceptible to Facebook addiction. According to Csiernik, biological, psychological and social factors all play a role in the development of compulsive behaviours.

“An addict might have a social phobia. ... On Facebook it’s easy for people with low self-esteem to socially reconstruct themselves,” Csiernik said.

Sociology professor Paul Whitehead agreed the Internet can become a source of dangerous addictions. “For some it’s pornography or gambling, but for others it’s social relationship sites [like Facebook].

“People who become so habituated to the Internet neglect other parts of their lives, like work, family and school.”

Whitehead added significant social damage can occur when these other responsibilities are neglected.

On campus, Facebook use is quite prevalent.

At the Spoke, fourth-year business management and organizational studies student Grace Sham browsed Facebook’s pages on her laptop.

“I go on [Facebook] four or five times a day,” Sham said. “But it depends on the day.” Sham added connecting with out-of-province friends was the main reason she frequented the social networking site.

Sham denied checking the site during lectures. “I’m doing other things in class.”

While checking his profile in the University Community Centre Centrespot, second-year science student Matt Cloutier said he liked knowing about events on Facebook.

Cloutier said he visits the site about three times per day.

To kick a Facebook addiction, Csiernik recommended reflecting on what started the psychological attachment. “Find out what it’s replacing, and then think of the alternatives,” he said.

“The Internet is an integral part of our world " but there’s a dark side to it,” Csiernik concluded. He urged students who feel they have a problem to consult Student Health Services’ Counselling Centre.

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