Health & Medicine

Don’t be a slave to Facebook

Two-hundred million of us are on Facebook. We can post videos of our band’s latest gig or share photos of that oh-so-precious grandchild.

But Facebook can also become a problem. Spending too much time social networking distracts us from our relationships and builds a fantasy world many folks prefer to their real ones. Experts have begun using the terms Facebook addiction disorder to describe the compulsive behaviors associated with the site. It’s not yet an official diagnosis, nor are there statistics telling us how many Facebook addicts are out there. Still, mental health professionals are noting an increase in patients who are suffering as a result of their social networking activities.

What constitutes a Facebook addiction? Consider the following questions:

Does Facebook interfere with your sleep?

It’s fine to occasionally check your home page. But being compelled to do so at 2 in the morning means you’re tired the following day. If Facebook means less shut-eye, you’re doing way too much.

Are you logged on to Facebook more than one hour per day?

Thirty minutes is more than enough time to read new postings or update your status. Any longer is wasteful and could signal trouble.

Are you obsessed with past loves that you’ve rediscovered via Facebook?

Facebook is named as the primary cause of divorce in one out of five online divorce petitions. Not only is digging into lost romance a huge threat to your current relationship, it’s pulling you hopelessly into the past.

Are you self-conscious about how much time you spend social networking?

If you lie to others about your Facebooking habits or if you’re embarrassed by how much you do, it’s a sure-fire signal that it’s excessive.

Are you on Facebook when you should be studying or working?

It’s not a problem logging on during a lunch break. But if you’re chatting with friends when you should be calling clients or studying for an exam, your priorities are out of whack.

Is your Facebook life better than your real one?

Facebook provides a neat, happy and easy existence that may be nicer than your own.

Does the thought of not being on Facebook make you anxious?

You realize that Facebook isn’t healthy for you. Still, the idea of quitting is more than you can bear. Use your angst as a confirmation that your behavior is over the top.

Tips for facing down facebook

Even though Facebook has a strong grip on your life, there’s plenty you can do to reclaim the upper hand and return it to the entertaining, useful pastime it’s intended to be. Here’s how:

Decide what you want from Facebook. Hope to stay in touch with the family? Keep involved with high school and college friends? Promote your nonprofit organization? Be clear about your purpose.

Don’t do anything that detracts from your goal or that elicits stress.

Stop tweaking your profile. Create a satisfactory profile for yourself. Then leave it be. Constant changes mean you care too much about what others think and that you’re inwardly agitated by Facebook.

Ignore requests. Just because someone invites you to be a friend doesn’t mean you have to respond. Think before accepting. Be sure you want to admit this person into your personal sphere.

Avoid frequent status changes. It’s great to tell others your latest news. But sharing what you had for lunch is pointless and clogs up others’ home pages. It’s also more work for you. Give your status a 48-hour break. Then, if you have something to share, go ahead and post it.

Limit your number of friends. Don’t have more than you can comfortably connect with. Be selective and enjoy those you choose to let in. Avoid any need to brag about how many friends you have.

Time your sessions. Keep a timer beside your computer. Set it for 15 minutes before you actually log in to Facebook. When time’s up you immediately log off and attend to something else.

Don’t use Facebook as a substitute for human contact.

Call or see people you care about. Get plenty of face-to-face time.

Quit if you need to. If all else fails and you’re still addicted to Facebook, a quick “Deactivate Account” will do the trick. You’re the captain of your emotional ship. Make sure it’s on a healthy course.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit lindalewisgriffith.com

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