The Dark Side of Social Media: Facebook Addiction

Zuckerberg and Japan's Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, on March 29, 2012, Tokyo ((C) The Mainichi Newspapers)

Zuckerberg and Japan's Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, on March 29, 2012, Tokyo ((C) The Mainichi Newspapers)

As I wrote in my ealier blog post, Facebook saved many people in Japan during the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. While the phone networks were down, the Internet was relatively unaffected. We were able to use data services and text. Facebook helped us connect with our families and friends unsure of our whereabouts. Japan’s Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, said a big thank you to Facebook at a meeting with the CEO of the company, Mark Zuckerberg, in Tokyo last week.

Facebook has more than 800 million users across the globe. Three weeks ago, the company announced that the number of its monthly active users in Japan doubled to 10 million in six months. However, as my NYU classmate, Jacqueline Zygadlo, wrote in her blog post, “Over-excessive social media usage is a growing problem worthy of being categorized as an addiction.”

This blog post is about examples of adverse effects caused by Facebook.

Friends’ Happy Pictures Make You Feel Down

ABC News reports that people sometimes feel sad when they see happy pictures of their friends on Facebook, making them think their friends are much happier than themselves. According to the report, the more time people spend on the website, the more they think others have better lives.

Having Too Many Friends Is Unhealthy

Alicia Eler writes in her blog post, “Sometimes having more than 250 Facebook friends isn’t very healthy.” In addition, Jackie Cohen says that people really do not know one-fifth of their friends on the website. This means that as the number of friends increases, people have more friends they do not actually know. As ABC’s report shows, people with more friends they do not personally know tend to feel more strongly that they are less happy than their friends. On average, having 354 friends is the turning point at which people become increasingly unhappy with their lives, according to Denny Watkins.

Teachers Know You Are Using Facebook in Class

USA Today says in an article that students using Facebook during a lecture tend to do worse academically. In a study, 53% of professors said Facebook (and 46% said Twitter) erodes the value of their classes. Furthermore, 58% responded they found students using the website when they were not supposed to.

“Unfriending” Led to Shooting Deaths

According to AP, a father shot and killed a couple in Tennessee who unfriended his daughter. Fortunately, the couple’s baby was found uninjured in its mother’s arms.

These reports reveal that Internet addiction is one of the big issues facing modern society. As a study by the University of Chicago shows, communication tools are fueling Net intoxication, and in some cases it “may be harder to resist than cigarettes and alcohol.”

According to Peter Diamandis, by 2020 three billion more people will get connected to the Internet. Net technologies, including Facebook, have been and will be dramatically increasing the possibilities of collaborative innovation among people. On the other hand, as Alicia Eler points out, “Social networks are both a space of freedom and a place of imprisonment.” It is time to stand back from the social media boom and look at it calmly.

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