Facebook fixation causes concern

PLUGGED IN: Facebook is an addiction that is very common among college students. Whether at home, in the library or during lecture, Facebook pops up on screens everywhere. Photo by: Shan Uddin // Hurricane Staff

The word addiction can often fall after words such as drug, alcohol and sex. For many college students, the infamous social networking site known as Facebook is another word that can legitimately be added to this list of vices.

Aside from text messaging and television, Facebook has become one of the biggest procrastination tools among college students, as they find themselves constantly checking for newly added friends, posts and pictures.

Since August, the general growth of active users has risen to an astonishing 100 million, making it the fourth most-trafficked site in the world since its debut in 2004, according to statistics on the Facebook Web site.

In addition, the site mentioned that each user spends an average of 20 minutes on Facebook each day. However, rising concern is forming for collegiate users who exceed this time to the extent some would consider abnormal and possibly unhealthy.

Patricia Abril, an assistant professor in the University of Miami’s School of Business, has and continues to research the way Internet privacy laws intersect with social networking sites. She recently published statistics in “The Next Digital Divide: Online Social Network Privacy,” a survey she conducted on 500 UM students in her business law class. The results showed that not only do an overwhelming amount of students use Facebook, they frequently check it daily.

“We all have a need to be connected and it’s more pronounced when you’re a young adult,” Abril said. “The more 24/7 our access is to this technology, the more we want it.”

Fifty-five percent of the survey’s respondents reported that they check their Facebook account more than once a day. Almost 80 percent said they check Facebook at least once a day.

Abril said that, despite the large amounts of students drawn to Facebook, she would not necessarily call it an addiction, but rather an obsession.

Vivechjanand  S. Chunoo, an advisor in Hecht Residential College, said that while an addiction may be difficult to define among different people, recognizing damaging behavior is not.

“Clearly, if one’s desire to be on Facebook is interrupting a major life role or activity – I’m talking about going to class, grooming, eating, or engaging in traditional social endeavors – that might be an indicator that something’s out of balance,” Chunoo said.

Aside from “deteriorating grades and declining physical health and wellness,” Chunoo said that consequences such as “significantly raised levels of distress or discomfort can result and, in severe cases, anxiety, depression, and a number of other psychological issues can arise.”

Students who are concerned with their Facebook habits may seek help from a licensed mental health professional or a professional counselor at the Counseling Center on campus.