Facebook, a social networking site that was launched February 2004, has more than 500 million active users as of July 2010. The premise of Facebook stems from the book of photos freshman receive during university orientation from administrations to help students get to know each other better. I created my Facebook when I entered college, but it has not become common place for everybody to have one. Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with friends, share events, upload photos, and join networks organized by workplace, school, or college. However, for some, this activity can lead to addiction.
Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) has been labeled as a new mental health disorder by psychologists in the United States. Professor Dr. Mohamad Hussain Habil, director of Universiti Malaya Centre of Addictive Sciences (UMCAS), says, “It is similar to Internet addiction. It is a type of behavioral addiction similar to pathological gambling, sexual and shopping addiction. It is a brain disorder as a result of neurochemicals dysfunction where normal behavioral becomes abnormal.” In China, this problem has become serious enough that the government has taken measures to prevent Internet addiction.
The Centre of Addictive Sciences (UMCAS) has seen an increase in the number of “patients” over the years. Parents have brought their children to the centre assuming that their children were under the influence of drugs; “When they noticed their teenagers performing poorly in school and not interacting as usual, the parents assumed their children were addicted to drugs. The fact was these children were addicted to the Internet. These teens were so obsessed with their virtual activities that they were willing to forego their meals, sleep, responsibilities and leisure activities. They felt life was not complete without online connections.” Similar to other addictions, these patients exhibited constant cravings to go online, some even developing sleep disorders from staying up late going online.
Like other addictions, being in denial of their addiction is a common characteristic of Internet addicts. They may be aware that there is a problem but addicts will not acknowledge it, simply justifying their habit.
UMCAS hopes to catch these activities early in hopes to prevent addiction. Similar to other addictions, the substance cannot be eliminated, in this case technologies, but he wishes to encourage healthy usage. He suggests parental supervision for teenagers through monitoring and regulations about computer use. However, if advice and parental punishment doesn’t work, parents should refer their children to counseling.
Facebook Addiction Disorder is like any other addiction, it’s “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” As an alcoholic, I have come to understand that I cannot drink alcohol or use drugs normally which is why I choose to remain free of these substances. However, Dr. Hussain is encouraging internet and Facebook addicts to use in “a healthy way.” This defies the concept of addiction which claims that addicts have lost the power to use in healthy, normal ways.