New research from Germany finds the need for offline support is critical to avoid addiction to social networking sites.
The study, lead by Dr. Julia Brailovskaia and team of investigators at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) Mental Health Research and Treatment Center, discovered that stressed users are at risk of developing a pathological dependence on the social networking site — the so-called “Facebook addiction.”
Addiction symptoms include, for example, users spending more and more time on Facebook, being preoccupied with Facebook all the time and feeling uneasy when they can’t engage with the network online.
The study findings appear in the journal Psychiatric Research.
In the study, researchers evaluated the results from an online survey that had been taken by 309 Facebook users between the ages of 18 and 56.
“We have specifically invited students to participate in the survey, as they often experience a high level of stress for a number of reasons,” said Brailovskaia.
Students are often put under pressure to succeed. Moreover, many leave their family home and the social network there; they have to run a household for the first time, are busy building new relationships.
The research questions were designed to determine an individual’s stress level, and to capture the amount of social support a participant received offline and online. Moreover, the users were asked how much time they spend on Facebook daily and how they feel if they can’t be online.
Investigators discovered the higher the stress level, the deeper an individual engaged with Facebook.
“Our findings have shown that there is a positive relationship between the severity of daily stress, the intensity of Facebook engagement, and the tendency to develop a pathological addiction to the social networking site,” Brailovskaia said.
At the same time, this effect is reduced if users get support from family and friends in real life. Individuals who don’t experience much support offline are most at risk of developing a Facebook addiction.
Sadly, the research implies that a feedback loop may occur if online support is the only method used to reduce stress.
The pathological behavior, in turn, affects their life offline and may trap them in a vicious circle.
“This aspect has to be taken into consideration when treating a person with a pathological addiction — or suspected pathological addiction — to Facebook,” Brailovskaia said.
Source: Ruhr-Universität Bochum