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Potential Facebook addiction

Dealing with your Facebook addiction

Prof says popular social networking site may be hazardous

By Danielle Pope, The Muse

VICTORIA (CUP) - Facebook has become an indispensable way to find old friends, schedule events, play games and even send virtual gifts. But if you're doing more living online than off, it might be time to reassess. Many students are now seeing Facebook more as an addiction than a networking tool, and psychologists are starting to agree.

Are personal relationships taking a backseat to Facebook? Do you think about Facebook even when you're offline? Do you use Facebook to escape problems or homework? Do you stay on Facebook longer than intended? Have you ever concealed Facebook use?

If you answered yes to any, you might be a borderline addict - no joke.

Frequent Facebook visits actually cause something psychologists refer to as intermittent reinforcement.

Notifications, messages and invites reward you with an unpredictable high, much like gambling. That anticipation can get dangerously addictive.

Rob Bedi, a registered psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Victoria, said that Internet addictions are common on university campuses, often helped by free Internet access, web-based assignments and unstructured blocks of time.

Bedi said there's a difference between procrastination and addiction. If you're losing assignment time to Facebook, though, that's a problem.

The key may be as simple as diagnosing your triggers and changing your habits.

"Find out what's missing from your life," said Bedi. "Whether it's having too much free time, not knowing anyone or just escaping, think about what made you resort to [Facebook], and what you could be doing instead."

Bedi suggests keeping a log to track your Facebook usage. If you're shocked by what you see, try the following: List your Facebook goals. Why did you originally sign up? Record what you actually do on Facebook. Make a Facebook schedule. Limit time to maintaining your original goals. Update your e-mail addresses to avoid relying on Facebook messages.

Bedi also suggested changing your password to something unfamiliar, including numbers, writing it on a piece of paper and placing it out of reach to make checking Facebook a chore. Repeat if necessary to curb your behaviour.

"This is not something you can quit cold turkey," said Bedi. "While a cocaine addict can put down his drug and an alcoholic his drink, you can't preach abstinence to a student society that functions on Internet usage. What you can do is practice control."

For some people, talking with someone might be the answer. Many universities offer addiction counselling through student services.

If you're not quite ready for that, you could join one of the 155 Facebook Addicts Anonymous groups on Facebook itself - but that might defeat the purpose.

The Muse

http://www.themuse.ca/view.php?aid=40852