"Internet Addiction" seems ubiquitous - easy to see everywhere, as a phenomenon, as simply an accepted part of every day life in the Digital Age.
Much less mentioned is the even more pervasive "smartphone addiction", & "Crackberry addiction", "gaming addiction" or "texting addiction". All these are real, and of course can co-exist. But Facebook makes it all so easy and friendly.
Are we now at risk of seeing a vast presentation - a cultural commonality - of "Facebook Addiction Disorder"? (Or is sometimes FAD just a fad?)
Some may argue that since these have become just as much a part of daily life as water coolers and word processing programs, these cannot be
painted as "addictive" so much as just another daily life tool in the world of the 21st Century. However, just as
"newbie" infatuation with the connectedness and immediacy of email and web surfing led to a societal concern about
"Internet Addiction" or pathological Internet use, the phenomenon of social networking has left the arena of personal
and group networking to a very public and constant arena which allows for strong reinforcement of exhibitionist, voyeuristic,
&/or interaction-seeking behavior, often in combination. Add to the instant texting component the ability to post pictures and
videos, play pop-psychology and pop-culture games and quizzes ("applications"), follow (slightly less closely than Twitter) the
every move, decision, feeling, and random thought of everyone in countless networks, and also maintain a homepage/"wall" for
all to see and visit, and this is the best possible recipe for significant (behavioral) addiction, as it fills a large and "normal"
part of so many lives. Whether it is more of an "addiction" than say ice cream, or "staying connected", or talking,
reading, gambling, or excessive online/TV/cellphone activity (to the extent it interferes with other necessary and/or "healthy" behavior), is no doubt individual. But it is only a matter of time before large numbers fall prey to the lures of a 24/7 social network with so
many wonderful things to offer, a home among friends and shared applications (aka games, quizzes, personality-types "tests",
awards, gifts and various "silly stuff") not to mention sharing laughs and creative feedback via photos, graphics, videos and more.
Need evidence for the pervasiveness of Facebook? If you have a Facebook account, you already know: Real and imagined friends, f2f and online
acquaintances, school buddies from the past, ex-spouses, military leaders, even the President of the United States, all appreciate
the power of "having a Facebook" presence. (This turns out to be much more so than with Second Life's initial promise, perhaps
because of the ease of use and fading of novelty.) The amazing thing is that, like cell phones, nobody seems to notice the vast
amount of time and energy - at work, at home, and now while on the move - people are devoting to Facebook. It has become a given.
An article on computer hardware for photographers (Shutterbug, May 2009, p.95) advises, "If you need a PC to access your e-mail and Facebook accounts when you're on the road..."
to consider specific small mobile PC's. Commercial television features closing credits inviting viewers to follow-up via Facebook
or Twitter. More and more links on web pages invite "sharing" on Facebook or RSS feeds or Twitter. We're all connected,
hooray! And for some the opportunities are pure ecstasy, both for the social networking component (which was at the heart of the
idea in the first place, albeit targeted at students) and for the games and contests which can be more of a time sponge than any
prior computer diversion known to wo/man, such as solitaire or randomly surfing the web.
One of the ironies is that the very people who might otherwise be working with people professionally to treat addictions, social
isolation, etc., seem to be themselves among the most active Facebookers. Admittedly drawn from a limited Sample, it is nonetheless
overwhelming to see how much time is devoted to things like determining what crayon color one is, or who is the best at Bejeweled Blitz -
and these are often mental health professionals who ostensibly spend at least some time off of Facebook, and might be able to
endure a day (or hour) or two without going through withdrawal. However, many people have so integrated Facebook as a part of normal
life - "I wake up in the morning and check Facebook" has overtaken waking up, getting dressed, and finding/checking the
cell phone - that it has become as much a part of the (invisible) tapestry of normal daily life as using the telephone or checking
email. For better and worse. Like many Internet tools, this can be both an opportunity and challenge, and for many it is easy
to strike a perfect blend. Students - who I have recently observed taking "breaks" from homework to take quizzes on what kind of element,
lover, animal, serial killer, doctor or rock star one most resembles - have already integrated everything from Facebook to
texting to I-phones, AIM, SMS, and Tivo into "normal daily life". But there is seemingly a new "newbie" experience
among oldsters who seem to enjoy the same treats which were intended for college students and then co-opted by high school students
As with all potentially "addictive"online activities, people vary in their involvement, some periodically "checking in"
to stay in touch, others checking once or twice a day, as a supplement to phone and e-mail checking, and some seemingly spending
quite substantial portions of time in activities which might be called creative, self-revealing, competitive, or purely social.
Different age groups focus on different important activities, of course, students often sharing woes about assignments or gossip
about peers, as well as creative videos and self-affirming photos or quiz results, some adults checking in occasionally or only
when notified of incoming messages (to inbox or wall), still others invariably posting multiple messages every day relating to
mundane daily life activities, or quiz results, or feeling states of the moment. One may wonder: Is this happening in the presence
of clients? Co-workers? While supposedly conversing online with another person? At the expense of Real Life (RL), or to
be more accurate, Non-Online Life?
I have reported on some of the research and theory pertaining to "Internet Addiction", and have (silently) observed
what appears to be a commercially-blessed wave of mobile phone and device addiction (as distinct from social networking addiction). But
Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) appears to me to have the most ingrained and self-reinforcing of all scenarios, reinforcing
through immediacy, acclamation, intimacy, shared experience, shared creativity, and the ability to be the complete and total
captain of the ship of one's Facebook home page. For some the "apps" seem to be totally compelling, for hours on end,
for others Facebook is used more like email, to keep in touch with a group, sometimes serious, sometimes playful, sometimes
simply sharing. But the fact of how ingrained Facebook has become culturally is one which is easy to miss, because, well,
everybody's doing it! Or so it seems. The irony of who is most pathologically addicted (as opposed to homework, relationship,
or work avoidant even without such a seductive companion as Facebook) is that nobody may be left to observe or treat this
huge behavioral phenomenon, as everybody is too focused on Walls and apps and networks and finding old & new friends.
When is a friend a friend? When is constant behavior an addiction? Is there such a thing as too much or too little social networking?
Who decides? Who asks?
Obviously much of this is rightfully engaging, and also quite healthy. Like most activities, moderation and integration are key. Those that may
seriously label and treat FAD as a behavioral addiction will clearly need to use context in determining if a behavior has become demonstrably harmful to overall social, work, or (f2f) interpersonal efficacy. For many people, especially those not already invested in maintaining personal homepages, blogs, photo-sharing collections, IM-ing networks, etc., Facebook offers the perfect menu of opportunity. It may be similar to the proverbial "kid in the candy store"
who cannot turn away from every temptation in sight, for hours of time supposedly spent on work, homework, housework, or relationship work, who may have a problem, if not "disorder". It is when one cannot leave the continuous activation/reinforcement
of a daily (or hourly or constant) activity that one may surmise it has become a problem. For others, it's a wonderful candy store
available whenever one is in the mood for sweets or hanging out with friends online or checking in - without the need to do so
on a constant and urgent basis.
Beyond sleep-deprivation and eye fatigue, there is real reason for concern over people's can't-get-enough push to ever more
immediacy and multi-tasking. Think: attention, focus, efficiency, self-monitoring, things like this which once were a large part of normal daily life.
In the News
It seems that, not surprisingly, mainstream media (online and off) has become interested specifically in "Facebook Addiction Disorder". Already the "symptom lists" are appearing on their own or are offered in response to journalist inquiries. As in the mid 1990's, lists -- and even the inevitable "apps" now -- are springing up to amuse us and/or advise us on "How to Tell if You're a Facebook Addict" and citing the "Top Symptoms" etc.
Are You a Facebook Addict? (October 2009)
Here is a recent article which quoted some of my own writing on this subject (fairly and contextually), and provided
some thoughts by other psychologists as well - one of whom provided a brief symptom list.
I might be inclined to add or subtract from this list. For example: the cold shakes might be a bit extreme as an expectation in the case of non-chemical withdrawal but then I do speak with adult professionals
who say they cannot envision a period of one whole day (or less) without checking one's social world via Facebook. One told me it would be like life stopped. Facebook-enabled "addicts" seem to fall prey to the endless availability of "apps", whether self-oriented quizzes or game-playing or being at the hub of nonstop social opportunity. Like the Internet in general, Facebook has it all, but in a convenient package all in one master home page.
Some treatment approaches are being developed which attempt to use notions of stimulus control and contextual cues to better monitor
one's time and behavior; more will be shared as results are known. Clearly not everyone adversely impacted by a specific online behavioral addiction is able to completely abandon the computer. Stay tuned...
This article in Spain's leading newspaper explores the phenomenon of social network participation.
While sometimes I'm (partially) quoted in ways which make me sound like the absolute voice of gloom & doom about the addictive aspects of Facebook in particular, I was pleased that this journalist used my thoughts on the *positive* aspects of online communication: providing access to social and professional support, opening the world to the geographically isolated or physically challenged, etc.
It must have been a relevant topic for a lot of people, as the journalist shared with me it was the most accessed online story of the day.
It's in Spanish, of course (coming from Spain), and I think a fair and not-too-sensationalized article, where the journalist sought out comments by myself and others to several perspectives. There's also a description of a Spanish social network (invitation-only) which has been around for a few years now.
The BBC recently highlighted Mashable.com's presentation of Flowtown's 2010 Social Networking Map,
which was described as accurate while also "quirky and amusing":
" Facebook is the largest single landmass but it is interesting to see how Twitter, Habbo and the Empire of Google compare."
You may also find the "Former Kingdom of MySpace" and "Receding Glaciers of AOL" represented on the map.
Beyond sleep-deprivation and eye fatigue, there is real reason for concern over people's can't-get-enough push to ever more
immediacy and multi-tasking. Think: attention, focus, efficiency, self-monitoring, things like this which once were a large part of normal daily life.
The link above leads to the press release by York University (Sept. 2010) and the full study was published in the
journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. Not shocking, perhaps, the short story definitely gets attention and invites finger-pointing at the closest "Facebook Addict". There is also an interesting description of the dynamics behind FB "self-promotion". Narcissism conjures up images of vanity in the public's eye, but interestingly these findings at least suggest how FB may be playing a role in offering an avenue for people to bolster flagging self-esteem through social connection, and acceptance within groups.
Is it perhaps basic human nature to fluff up the ego and seek or make friends? Here is a world brimming with candy, disguises, all sorts of social and gaming opportunities, and the perfect escape from time... :-)
The broadcast TV tease: "How many times have you logged onto Facebook only to find that (fill in the name here) has updated their page for the upteenth time with yet another entirely forgettable, wonder of me moment?" (CBS). Their web article includes related links.
I've not seen the original study but would be interested in learning more about how they defined/determined/operationalized "narcissism".
Psychological theory (object relations) holds that there is, after all, "good" or "healthy" narcissism in addition to the pathological.
Although content may change here (due to the nature of a Wiki), online presently (Oct. 2010) one can find several good points and tips.
While not endorsing any specific comment or treatment proposal, the overall collection of links and suggestions offers some fine ideas in addition to reinforcing the notion
that there is such thing as "too much". One of the key points here seems to be underscoring the importance of "mindfulness" about
our time use, while another suggests the value of employing strategies to help with time management rather than simply going "cold turkey" from
FB &/or computers. This is consistent with the treatment approach now used (e.g., by Kimberly Young) with "Internet Addiction" more generally.
A new study from Stanford University suggests that the constant idealizing and positive spin we put "out there" on FB may contrast painfully with
our real-life daily experience away from the comfortable world of FB. There is a lot here which might be discussed on a number of sociological and psychological levels. Freud might
have called the undue "cathexis" (mental energy allocation) directed towards devices and self-entertainment "denial" or "displacement", while one's online wall offers the perfect place for projection, fantasy, and distortion. Others might address narcissism, or the role of attention and focus, or peer/social pressure. A lot to consider!
A discussion with the author of "Alone Together", who recognizes the potential for individual empowerment which the Internet offers, while highlighting too the way in which one may be seduced by, and fixated on, the devices rather than the RL situation at hand: "I go to a funeral and people are texting, hiding their phones under the order of service". Exactly. Why text or pull out a device now? Where are we now when we refer to being "in the moment" or in the Here and Now?
Social Networking has become a major force shaping lifestyles and even sparking "People Power" movements on behalf of causes worldwide. A wonderful overview
of the rise and use of Facebook can be found in Alex Trimpe's engaging video, with some fascinating statistics spanning from 2004-2011.
Getting a lot of publicity in the media today, a Pediatric organization seems to suggest yet another new diagnosis: Facebook Depression.
The "good news" is that the treatment "prescription" is increased family face-to-face time. (The "bad news" is that Facebook dependency is a growing
issue for parents and professional care-givers as well.) Still true: Parents need to be available, and parent!
[ Full Report: Clinical Report: The Impact of Social Media on
Children, Adolescents, and Families ]
A favorite clip to illustrate the power of 'the new peer pressure' to join the virtual world of friends, likes, and shares. It may be difficult for those who refuse to 'get with the program' and insist on remaining 'un-taggable' and living life F2F.
Asynchronously live report from the 119th APA Convention (2011), here is psychologist/author Larry Rosen with a broad perspective on today's generations: how and how much media is consumed, generational differences, the trends in social media, and how it all impacts our lives. Social and cognitive behavior, and an in-depth look at media consumption across generations, waves, and mini-waves. Lots of interesting web metrics make for an enlightened perspective of Life 3.0.
Here's a brief look at 'the mind of Facebook', or behind Facebook, and the vision of a future of FB owning everyone's identity and consciousness in just one central gathering screen. (A bit like Big Brother and the single screen? Morbeus, whose unconscious drives control everything, in Forbidden Planet?)
Why Facebook is After Your Kids (NY Times, 12 Oct 2011)
This well-referenced report begins with the "troubling news" reported by Consumer Reports - that 7.5 Million children aged 12 and younger are now 'on Facebook' and subject to the same privacy and marketing and peer pressure forces which drive much of the focus and experience of older Facebook users - those for whom the social networking/Facebook idea was originally meant. The article presents several studies and amplifies the concerns about privacy generally as well as the vulnerability of children to marketing ploys, and giving away personal information. While some see social networking as social, others see only a movable database for marketing, driven by the near-religious fervor of founder Mark Zuckerberg, who explains it all thusly: "The more you’re sharing, the more — the model all just works out." Here the NY Times reports on how FB is vying to weaken legal protections for children - at the same time working to impose a "timeline" which envisions every snapshot, movement, idea, "like", etc., from cradle to grave, effortlessly becoming the property of Facebook and/or public domain, forever.
This scary-sounding story comes from Time's Facebook Blog at 2011's end. This follows a Guardian story involving not the usual professional relationship boundaries such as student-teacher or doctor-patient or lawyer-client relationships.
A pediatrician's perspective which describes social media as a "new environment in which kids are sorting through the process of becoming autonomous adults - the same things that have been going on since the earth cooled."
Brief summary of Pew's recent survey of attitudes regarding social networks and their use. There are also links to several articles which span across the mix of business and "social" use, both positive and negative.
Some may be familiar with earlier research into causes and effects of time spent online (positive, negative, neutral/idiographic). Prior to so much attention to online life there was a great deal of effort to teach how the 'warning signs' of depression and/or suicide-homicide are so often apparent.
Add to the constancy of depression and teen angst the changing attitudes of teachers and clinicians towards setting boundaries online, and this makes for an interesting discussion. (imho)
Creating some buzz and collegial discussion, the research highlights the link between social network behavior and 'narcissism' - in this case, time spent at the Internet mirror, preening one's image, counting friends, & self/brand promoting. How is 'self-absorption' responded to, socially, online? There have been many studies using 'narcissism' scales to assess feelings and needs which get acted upon (for good or bad) - but the classic scales are dated. Recently a few researchers have begun to explore online social dynamics, from collaboration to bullying. Some say this particular concept of 'socially disruptive' narcissistic behavior has long been known - as 'attention-seeking'. The dynamic is easily extended to interpersonal (&/or self-image-oriented) behavior online, in this age of always-on. Particularly refreshing in this study is the discussion of how underlying individual thinking is being impacted, important things such as 'focus' and 'attention'. These in turn impact academic and work success, 'self-esteem', and social behavior too. Vicious circle. We increasingly inhabit a world of impression management, image grooming, and brand promotion all vying for our eyes, attention, and time. Clinical 'narcissism' optional.
Lonelier? More Narcissistic? Because of - or despite - social media? Has cause/effect been proven? The questions and implications are not new, but here is a new spin which is generating a lot of buzz. (One example follows.) Could it be that we are becoming media-hypnotized lemmings, lonely or not? Has 'modern life' simply interconnected us all, for good and bad, shining a brighter light on human behavior?
Web-savvy Slate quickly took issue with both the reportage and the conclusions of The Atlantic article (above). Slate's response in fact was so speedy and pithy that it seems to have scooped the lion's share of publicity. Whatever the deep answers for the findings, clearly there is interest! All to the good. This article includes a few links to recent research.
As reported here by MedicalWorldToday, the April 2012 issue of Psychological Reports features research in Norway by Dr. Cecilie Andraessen, utilizing the "Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale". There are some examples of items here, and an interesting discussion that notes the changing nature of Facebook itself. As well as the users, a point to which Dr. Andraessen speaks. Another point of view is also presented: perhaps what we are seeing is a generalized "social media addiction" phenomenon, in many flavors and contexts.
Here's a must-see report for anyone who doubts how important it is for so many people to have the 'perfect profile' to accrue 'friends' and 'be liked' - to the point of massive time and effort spent with impression management/image grooming. Sometimes, as reported here, it moves beyond social media posts (text and links) to the point of Photoshopping images or seeking RL cosmetic surgery. Fascinating report with some good links to related news stories.
To date, the most rigorous and insightful look at how and why people - and corporations - use, return to, head to Facebook, and the 'outcomes' of all this time being spent on this online platform. Shared with permission (for educational purposes only), this is from the American Psychological Association's new Journal: Psychology of Popular Media Culture. (.pdf file)
As Facebook focuses on going mobile, so users can easily connect, share, etc., 24/7, some concerns are being voiced about individual privacy being sacrificed as FB seeks to 'graph' the lives and likes of the world's inhabitants.
Therapists and teachers and parents observe it, and increasing numbers report experiencing it. Have we become 'addicted' to following every tweet, FB post, and check-in, in real-time, no matter what we are doing apart from attending to our devices? Is 'missing out' on a nanosecond of data stream 'no longer an option'?
This is THE question some observers have been asking: Who is the master, the boss, the captain of our experience? An app? Are we harnessing technology as tools, or are the tools and hi-tech marketing and peer pressure called 'social' actually controlling us? Is this the an era of 'useful gadgets' in fact ruling the lives of their owners? Owning our attention span and setting our goals (like finding a signal, or wifi, or charger)?
To which a news commentator or satirist may well reply, 'really?'. Social scientists, teens, and others know, everything is now shared, and our 'likes' are marketed to 'friends' as theirs are to us. Social. Here's the first account of a Cambridge study looking at 58,000 U.S. Facebook users.
[See also the APA Journal report above, on a study of 'Facebook Psychology' - how we mind our image and behavior.]
A further look at how our Facebook 'likes' reveal not only a person's browsing behavior but also personalit traits - with high levels of accuracy accuracy. Even if Big Brother isn't watching closely advertisers and data harvesters certainly are. And it seems many "like", or are unaware.
Is this the next stage of bringing about one single web destination for all the world, all the time? No need to buy gifts, send cards, play games, or now search - elsewhere. As they say, 'YMMV - Your Mileage may vary' depending on how hooked in one is to large networks of friends who 'like', 'share', and 'recommend', all in the same place. As for the results, those with lives beyond Facebook may still do far better with a search engine which yields factual information rather than the often-random 'likes' which are shared profusely among those who live on Facebook.
Well, it's here, the inevitable invitation to remain permanently (and literally) attached to friends and sharing 'likes', all in one place, and attached literally too, as more and more people (with small screens and good vision) do more and more living 'on device', as opposed to on the phone, or online. Now one can share, like, and 'social search' 24/7, even sleeping with our devices as research shows we do.
How Teens Are Really Using Facebook: It's a 'Social Burden', Pew Study Finds
(Huffington Post, 21 May 2013)
When does keeping up with massive social data-sharing stop being fun and start to be experienced more as a burden or impediment to more natural social interaction? The time may be coming sooner than expected, perhaps even helped along by Facebook and Twitter, etc., contributing to micro- attentions spans.
[Final Pew Report - Complete - .pdf - Unavailable 2019]
... and like it, too! Whether it's the power of the device or the social influence of peers and marketers, there is little doubt about the pervasive impact Facebook has had on lifestyles. Not only does Facebook make us do things, but it loves how we 'like' and suggest things for our 'friends' to buy. Next up, maybe? Facebook made me like it, share it, friend it....
"From online data mning, a lack of safeguards, and even unhealthy food choices [The Center for Digital Democracy] makes a compelling argument for keeping your young children off the popular social network and others like it.".
Getting a great deal of press (Fall 2013), here's one of the better articles on the new 10-day inpatient treatment program ('rehab') for IAD - 16 beds, full medical staff, and a pricetag of $14,000 USD, not paid for (before or after ACA) by insurance. Serious treatment combining some now-familiar components of 'detox' support and cognitive-behavioral therapy. This program is at the Bradford Regional Medical Center in Pennsylvania, launched by Dr. Kimberly Young, a pioneer in the identification, treatment, and study of 'Internet Addiction'. This is the first inpatient program of its kind.
[An historical note: to be fair, Dr. Merissa Orzack launched the first hospital-based treatment program for 'computer addiction' in 1999, although it was on an outpatient basis.]
The article sounds a bit like Rorschach inkblot test meets 'positive psychology', or, as the article puts it, filtering all our 'shared' words through an 'open-vocabulary approach' so in the end we can acquire new vistas of understanding as "big data meets psychology". The headline declares the results 'groundbreaking' and - among the Facebook-connected world, which is virtually everyone - proclaims how word-use analysis can "provide an unprecedented window into the psychological world of people with a given trait.". Great for marketers and whom else? Facebook psychometricians? Social psychologists? Pollsters?
This article takes a perspective emphasizing that our brains are inherently 'wired for social'. With a bit of neuroscience to suggest how connection - via Facebook, of course - is making the collective brains of the planet 'happy'. [Can brains feel happiness without an owner?]
A report on the new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics which proposes family 'media plans', given how "exposure to TV, smartphones, computers, tablets, and all forms of social media play a dominant role in the lives of American kids and teens..." - and adults too! Includes several resources including a link to healthychildren.org where one can learn How to Make a Family Media Use Plan.
A look at how face-to-face relationships are impacted by constant attention to devices (smart phones, texting,etc.) at the cost of personal (face-to-face) connection and the growth of 'distraction attraction'. Have you been to a meal or party where people engage their screens rather than each other?
Facebook not only tracks your every online, on-Facebook move, but they scrutinize the messages users start and then decide against posting, invoking the judgment or 'mindfulness' to "self-censor". (Maybe it would be offensive, or non-flattering, or fluff?) But Facebook *wants* to know! (And don't let it happen again!)
A look at the growth of mindfulness about immersion/addiction within the always-connected lifestyle. Here are some findings and implications from a recent University of Maryland study and an exploration of 'digital detox' in terms of challenges and benefits. Dr. David Greenfield (an Internet addiction/behavior specialist) describes a societal 'tipping point' and Dr. Kimberly Young (who treats IAD) stresses the value of positive, additive behaviors beyond remaining caught in the Net.
What do you like, what are you doing? Look at me, will you be my friend? A glimpse at the personal side of 'branding' and (another) look at the relationship between self-promotion, image grooming, and narcissism. Does all the self-focus feed it, or are we attracted to places where we can publicly shine as a persona?
Has it peaked among teens, or is there a movement away from fishbowl privacy? Are we still pwned or are some finding life beyond Facebook, organically? Interesting stats.
The discussion continues. Good or bad? Happy or sad? Additive or subtractive? Cause or reflection of narcissism? Constant connection: Facilitator or cure for loneliness? Ability to focus? Attention span? Relationships? All or none of the above? Oops, more than 140 characters, so who is still reading?
Here is an interesting infographic celebrating the 10th Anniversary of (The) Facebook, February 4, 2014. [NY Times]
Here is the original study which manipulated the user experience of over 680,000 prospective Facebook users (Subjects?) - ostensibly to explore how emotional contagion [like Facebook use?] can be manipulated? Did this violate human research standards, or was it simply 'market analysis'?
Here's a summary of the reactions to the Facebook study which has set off alarm bells among users, casual observers, privacy advocates, and researchers, including psychologists who are voicing particular concerns about the lack of "informed consent". In the aftermath of research into what people type but choose not to post, this is said to be a study of 'social contagion'. Good? Evil? Ethical research? Opportunity?
The counter-argument to the protests about lack of 'informed consent', highlighting some of the distinctions between human subject research and marketing research. Risk-benefit-truthfulness components to the debate.
2015 - Facebook, "Social Life" and Device-centric Lifestyle
A discussion of how Facebook activity can add to stress, which is described as a 'cost of caring', according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. This PBS summary highlights some of the complexity in contextualizing the findings, such as how females are most impacted, but tend to be the most involved with 'social' networking in general (not only on Facebook). Some good dicussion points beyond gender differences, in terms of the expressions online of sharing and 'caring'. (I wonder about the factor of 'empathy' or 'seeking support' or approval. Many variables!)
Here is the actual study from Pew, as discussed by PBS (above). In fact, it may lead to a somewhat different take-away than the PBS article, with a major finding suggesting benefits from this sharing, particularly among females - consistent with the old adage that when stressed, 'men walk, women talk'.
The 2 major findings: (1) "Overall, frequent internet and social media users do not have higher levels of stress. In fact, for women, the opposite is true for at least some digital technologies...." (2)
"At the same time, the data show there are circumstances under which the social use of digital technology increases awareness of stressful events in the lives of others. Especially for women, this greater awareness is tied to higher levels of stress". A complex interaction, so it seems.
On one hand, there is evidence to suggest that 'everybody has gone social', with a recent Pew Research study noting that 45% of (adult) U.S. Facebook users are on that platform multiple times throughout each day. Doesn't that illustrate how the wave of 'social', 'friends', and 'FB sharing' has made us all hyper-connected, part of the same busy 'social' hive? Not necessarily, says Larry Rosen and others. What is our definition of (meaningful) social interaction, and is it the same definition as Facebook and their corporate sycophants would offer? Is 'social' just a 'virtual kind of thing', and 'friends' merely trophies or adornments to add to one's 'timeline' (nee wall) alongside cat memes and one's selfie of the day? Surely there are positives and negatives, within the tsunami of 'everybody doing it'. As Rosen notes: "Connecting Virtually Isn’t Like Real-World Bonding". It may be 'like', but different!
Is the addiction to devices intentional 'behavioral engineering'?
Psychologists know the power of 'variable reinforcement' - offer an occasional reward and it keeps one motivated to keep trying for more. Marketing pros know the power of 'sticky' and branding, etc. Here "Google Ex-Google product philosopher Tristan Harris calls his smartphone “a slot machine in [his] pocket", extending that metaphor. Viewing the reinforcers as things like number of friends, 'likes', retweets etc., just take a look around you at a restaurant, on the streets, in offices and schools. Can anyone resist the non-stop, intentionally-designed-to-be-addictive lure of our beloved devices?
This non-profit organization illuminates some of the programming 'tricks' employed by Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and 'mainstream media' (E.g., constant 'breaking news'), designed to capture our ever-dwindling attention and focus. There's also a movement you can join to raise awareness and try to influence the 'pushers' of addictive habits to modify their scorched-earth approach to demanding all our attention, all the time.
And the vast majority of people in many regions and all walks of life - even a new President - continue to be unable to 'put it down'. Something easy to observe as a social scientist, all of everyday life now seems more oriented towards never-ending 'information' streaming in to our screens of all sizes, at all times of day & night. It is also clear that Facebook etc. have teams working very hard to deliberately make their page 'sticky' enough to hold eyeballs there - and there alone, as the place for 'social', 'news', 'memories', and living one's 'timeline'. This excellent piece explores the story behind the mass-hypnotizing/influencing of consumers to be constantly connected to apps (and their containers). Fascinating.
"Studies show that people who spend more time on social media sites feel more socially isolated than those who don't...". Except that other studies and situations find people finding support and connection where there was none before. Chicken or egg was first? The discussion posits that the 'isolation' may reflect "a disconnect between our online lives and our real ones." Certainly there are whole new frontiers available, both for positive and negative. A good discussion piece.
"The problem is this: Facebook has become a feedback loop which can and does, despite its best intentions, become a vicious spiral. At Facebook’s scale, behavioral targeting doesn’t just reflect our behavior, it actually influences it. Over time, a service which was supposed to connect humanity is actually partitioning us into fractal disconnected bubbles."
[See also Buzzfeed's take on Facebook's campaign to engage/own our focus 24/7, dominating lives and now extending into new ways to engage, like A.R.]
While Facebook is without doubt the most voracious of 'designed to be addictive' destinations online/on-device, where 'engagement' is the name of their game, clearly other popular sites are equally concerned with capturing clicks and return visits (or never-leaving 'addicts'). See the article on 'behavioral engineering' above. Not only Facebook is broken. Our attention and focus have been shattered too!
This is much more than a page for people seeking treatment; it is a very broad and deep reference, a compilation of academic and popular-media studies about the broad range of online and/or device-centered 'addictions'. The site offers definitions, a bit of history (mostly recent), many multi-media features (E.g., videos), as well as several avenues to explore if seeking treatment (which they do not offer themselves and which neither they nor I specifically 'endorse') There is a great deal of information here, and it is a good companion to this page and also to the multi-media syllabi from my own "Context and Perspective" lectures in Moscow (2014) and at DeviceDevotion.com
A new presentation by my respected Russian colleague, Alexander Voiskunsky, who focuses on psychology as it relates to 'daily life'. Here he looks at 'cyberpsychology' as but one focus area, and goes on to explore aspects of how lives are now shaped increasingly by technology, from children's interests and social communication to new areas such as virtural reality. An international perspective (Russia and beyond). This is in Russian but translates easily and fairly well via Google, etc. [You'll note some curious translations but understand, such as with 'kiberpsihologii'.]
"In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which data from over 50 million Facebook profiles was secretly scraped and mined for voter insights, many Facebook users have decided to delete their accounts — but untangling yourself from a site like Facebook is not as easy as pressing 'delete.'" - source. And it's not only difficult or impossible (in the U.S., anyway) to remove prior online data, but psychologically it may be as difficult as ending a face-to-face relationship, or entire lifestyle, or membership in a popular community.
Fast forward past the 2016 U.S. election and a year of controversy, reality-show 'governance', and nonstop mainstream and Fox/Twitter distraction. In March 2018 the ongoing Russian hacking enterprise is now focused on voter psychograms used by Bannon et al at Cambridge Analytica, and the continuous trend of Facebook violating basic and consent-decree privacy assurances, as millions of users 'voluntarily' (or unwittingly) handed over personal and friends/family contact info to Farmville and myriad '3rd party apps' all benefitting from the business model of 'like and share constantly, never leave, and don't look here as we farm your data and sell it to all bidders'. Corporations are re-thinking the symbiotic relationship. Advertisers? Maybe. Legislators? Not so amused. Here's an overview from some experts.
Author, composer and computer scientist Jaron Lanier has long been an opponent of privacy invasion and data-mining as a business model. Five years after another interview on the topic (video above) - his focus goes beyond Facebook, which, along with Google is a main engine of 'social marketing'. Twitter is in the mix too. His book is titled "Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts". Here Lanier describes how the constant stream of 'annoying but compelling' memes and messaging is intentionally designed to addict, and generally without 'informed consent'. Here is an excerpt of his May 2018 interview with PBS economics Correspondent Paul Solman.
Full Segment Transcript (and links to other aspects such as FB, social engineering, and'fake news'):
"The company’s AI algorithms gave it an insatiable habit for lies and hate speech. Now the man who built them can't fix the problem."
Lastly, what about the concerns, say, of Human Resources and security/privacy/addiction professionals?
Here is a wonderfully insighful, still timely, and funny 6-minute (animated, digitalesque)
video, highlighting several interesting points and counterpoints:
Close My Facebook Account, Please.
Please note that my inclusion of recent media articles about the topic of Facebook addiction and related aspects of social networking life, does not necessarily mean that I agree with the details, "spin" (characterization), or ideas as presented by those independent researchers and reporters. Except for my own article which appears
above - before the list of news items - these reference links are meant as "talking points" or "grist for the mill" to invite
discussion and further research.