Are You Addicted to Facebook (or Twitter, JDate or internet)?
Monday, February 22, 2010
By: Patricia Rotsztain Frost, LMHC, CH

The "social media" fad has convinced us that it is a good time investment to spend hours in front of the computer, post every step we walk, twit every time we go to the bathroom, and become part of this culture of peeping Tom's and exhibitionists. We've been told it's "good for networking". Our lives have been turned into a gigantic window where everything is public. Privacy is a forgotten concept. Our kids are texting and tweeting constantly as they watch a reality show where the attraction is to see the moment by moment "privacy" of another person. Our parents watched soap operas where actors played a fiction script. We watch "bachelors" make out with different women as they choose their life mate, the only difference is this is their real life. Single people used to ask friends to introduce them to other singles, or go to parties. Now that's out, if you are single, you spend hours in the computer browsing dating sites that exhibit people as merchandise. You pick a few, chat or email, and maybe at some point meet someone for coffee, at which time you get disappointed because they don't look like their picture or lied. The real thrill is the online communication, where you can safely portray yourself as a Victoria's Secret model or a Brad Pitt tycoon. We became so used to this situation that it becomes easy to justify something than can fall into the addiction guidelines as per the Diagnostic Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, DSM-IV.

Let's see...Here is the diagnostic criteria for Substance Dependence: "A maladaptive pattern of substance use (in this case the substance is internet), leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three (or more) of the following, occurring at any time in the same 12-month period:

(1) tolerance (a need for increased amounts of the substance (more time online)
(2) withdrawal: the same substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms (we go back online to avoid discomfort or anxiety)
(3) the substance is often taken in larger amounts or over longer periods than was intended (you log in for a few minutes, and get hooked, spending more time than you planned)
(4) persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control substance use (you tell yourself: "I'm not going to stay up so late in the computer every night" and end up doing it again.
(5) a great deal of time is spend in activities related to the substance (checking your blackberry to see if you got an E-Harmony match).
(6) important social, occupational or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use (you are doing less real social activities, you are late on work projects, you have no time to call your mom because you are surfing the net).
(7) The substance use continues despite knowledge of persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problems (you continue even after your boss caught you chatting online, you woke up late because you stayed up in the computer until 2 in the morning, or did not finish a project).

Now keep in mind that only three of these symptoms are necessary to qualify for substance Dependence. As to Substance Abuse, the criteria is even a tighter fit, again, only three of the following are necessary:

(1) recurrent substance use (internet) resulting in failure to fulfill major obligations at work, school or home.
(2) recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous, like driving (ever texted or checked email while driving?)
(3) recurrent substance related legal problems (traffic ticket?).
(4) persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the substance (like less in person social contact or more isolation).

In conclusion, you may have a clinical addiction to internet, just as thousands of other people. The fact that it is common doesn't make it less destructive or serious. It is time to evaluate what we have gained with this social media hipe, is it really helping your business, have you made real friends, the kind you talk to, get together and share real stuff? Do you have hundreds of Facebook friends but not one to go watch a movie or bring you chicken soup when you are sick? Do you get panicky if you forget your phone or don't have access to a computer? Is your life enhanced by internet surfing and social media sites or are you using them to hide and fantasize?

Author : Mrs. Patricia Rotsztain Frost LMHC, MS
Patricia Rotsztain Frost, LMHC, CH, is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Hypnotherapist and PhD Candidate in Natural Health. For more information on hypnosis, psychotherapy, natural health and holistic nutrition please visit her profile on the Directory.