Facebook addiction is a real thing, says researcher, while absentmindedly checking Facebook

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Don't hate on your cousin for clogging your news feed with status updates about her boyfriend's psoriasis and the traumatizing event that happened on her way to work this morning. (Spoiler Alert: some guy honked at her in traffic) Research from the University of Bergen indicates that Facebook addiction, or a dependency on Facebook, might actually be a legitimate phenomenon, producing symptoms that are similar to those of drug and alcohol addiction.

Now, for those of you who are scoffing, "No way is that a real thing" and "Bullshit, I know what the true face of addiction looks like. I've seen Trainspotting," hear study author Cecilie Schou Andreassen out for a sec. According to Andreassen, Facebook addiction is a byproduct of our culture's over-reliance on social media, which makes it increasingly difficult for us to determine whether or not we're casual Facebook users ("I only post status updates about once a week, usually when I'm drinking") or full-blown Facebook-holics ("if I don't post this Instagram of my cat right now, my heart will race and my pupils will start dilating and I will obsessively claw at invisible bugs that are laying their eggs on my face").

Through her research, Andreassen and her team found that younger users, particularly those prone to anxiety, tend to fall into the latter camp, possibly because anxious people feel more comfortable interacting with others online than face-to-face. She also determined that "people who are more organized and less ambitious tend to be less at risk," which makes sense when you think about how much time you spend at work checking out your ex's new girlfriend's boob job from her spring break photos instead of, you know, actually working. 

If you think you might have a Facebook addiction, Andreassen has developed a handy Facebook Addiction Scale based on the following criteria (items are scored on a scale of one to five, with one meaning "very rarely" and five meaning "very often"):

  • You spend a lot of time thinking about Facebook or plan use of Facebook.
  • You feel an urge to use Facebook more and more.
  • You use Facebook in order to forget about personal problems.
  • You have tried to cut down on the use of Facebook without success.
  • You become restless or troubled if you are prohibited from using Facebook.
  • You use Facebook so much that it has had a negative impact on your job/studies.

If you answered "often" or "very often" on at least four of the six items, then, um, you probably just wasted the last four minutes of your life taking a quiz on whether or not you have a Facebook addiction.