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Who has addiction-like symptoms with Facebook?

What can we do knowing the following information? People who have addiction-like symptoms regarding Facebook use also tend to have obsessive Facebook passions rather than harmonious Facebook passions. I’ll define what a few of these terms mean below, but, really, if someone told you this, or if you read this somewhere, what would you do with that information?

Definitions before I begin:

· Addiction-Like Symptoms — In this case, it is when Facebook use leads to the neglect of personal, professional, or social activities. This can also affect emotions and life satisfaction (both negatively).

· Obsessive Passions — This is when people have strong urges to use Facebook and find it difficult to get off of it. They are passionate, but with no control, leading to things like guilt.

· Harmonious Passions — This is when people use Facebook, enjoy it, and don’t feel guilt. They are passionate, but have control and can stop if they need or want to.

So what can we do? I’ll walk through a few scenarios. This will both bring up questions and potential ways we can move forward even if we do have those questions.

1. Ask ourselves, do we have obsessive passion or harmonious passion? It would make sense to start here. I think it can be common to see a news article and suddenly think, “oh that must apply to me.” Not necessarily. This is the biggest step in figuring out if you need to and how to apply findings to our lives. Asking ourselves if we have control over our passion or not seems to be a key difference between people that also have or don’t have addiction-like symptoms. One big way to know this is, if after you do something, do you ever experience guilt or shame? You can have a passion and do it; there is nothing wrong with that. But, do you start doing an activity, hours pass by, and then you feel guilty because it is this activity getting in the way of accomplishing anything else you want or need to be doing? It might just be an obsessive passion then. If not, then it likely isn’t. Once you do this, you may also ask yourself the next question.

2. Ask ourselves, do we have addiction-like symptoms? Similarly, regardless of the type of passion you have, do you experience these symptoms? Just because research says obsessive passion and addiction-like symptoms tend to co-occur, this does not mean that if you have one that you automatically have the other. And, if you do have addiction-like symptoms, it really could be because of so many other things that don’t relate to obsessive passion. It could be a personality thing. It could be a social thing. It could even be a harmonious passion thing. Just because harmonious passion doesn’t predict addiction-like symptoms ON AVERAGE doesn’t mean that it can’t predict it for a certain individual.

3. Does obsessive passion LEAD to addiction-like symptoms? We don’t know. If we knew the answer to this, we could more strongly say how to stop addiction-like symptoms. Also, if we knew this, I would have just said my opening quote like that. However, we really don’t know based on this research. It could. It would make sense. But, just looking at this study, we wouldn’t be able to (appropriately) come to that conclusion here. We would need other research before we can say the degree to which this is true. This could be an experiment where we manipulate obsessive passions (which I actually think may be slightly unethical unless you are trying to decrease obsessive passions and then see if that decrease that we caused also causes fewer or less severe addiction-like symptoms). Or this can be done by tracking people for an extended period of time in a longitudinal study. We would want to see people that naturally develop obsessive passions and if that later leads to more addiction-like symptoms. Either way, that isn’t what happened in the current study, and so we can’t make this conclusion.

4. How can we stop either obsessive passion or addiction-like symptoms? According to this research, self-control is likely the best thing. BUT! It only seems to relate to obsessive passion and not to addiction-like symptoms. If we go with the idea that obsessive passion leads to addiction-like behaviors (which is an assumption at this point), then this absolutely could make sense. We would want to stop obsessive passion from happening in the first place. How can you do that? Through self-control. In fact, self-control also relates to harmonious passion, meaning that, when we have self-control, we are more likely to be a person who also has harmonious passions and less likely to have obsessive ones. This would allow us to more healthily use Facebook and not feel guilty afterward. However, if you try to control yourself when you already have addiction-like symptoms, it may be a little too late. It’s so much harder to will yourself to stop something when it is an automatic behavior. We will eventually lose that battle unless we have more resources at our disposal. This would be such good information for people BEFORE they ever decide to get on social media. I am sure there are good ways to stop addiction-like behaviors, but I imagine they are more involved compared to if we are able to control ourselves before we are in too deep. I will explicitly say, however, these are all assumptions. Logical assumptions, but assumptions nonetheless because of the points I raise in point #3. It is my best guess given what we know.

5. Does it matter what people do on Facebook and do some behaviors lead to addiction-like symptoms more strongly than others? It probably matters, but we don’t actually know. We need to look at how the researchers measured addiction-like symptoms and Facebook use itself. Researchers, in this case, only looked at how often people were on Facebook and not the actual behaviors they engaged in. Someone who passively scrolls may (or may not) feel guilty for different reasons that someone who is on Facebook and just being a troll and spreading hate. Bonus: we also can’t say if this would happen on other social media platforms or not. Not from this research study anyway. It likely works in a similar way on other platforms, but we don’t currently have any evidence for or against that claim.

Hopefully through this post, you can start to see what we can and can’t say given a research finding. The conclusions we can or can’t make will change depending on every single study. The questions that get brought up are also going to change from study to study. As I continue doing this, you’ll probably be able to catch which studies are more believable and which studies warrant many follow-up questions.

Until next time!


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