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Facebook Addiction?

Can you get addicted to Facebook? I do not usually spend a lot of time on the site, but I know people who do. It seems like it takes them over an hour to do even simple homework assignments because they are alternating doing their assignment with chatting and surfing around Facebook. I often wonder what compels them to spend so much time on Facebook wasting at least half of their time to do productive things over the course of the day.

A few weeks ago, several of my friends and I took most of a Sunday afternoon to work on homework. We probably worked for at least 8 hours on various assignments. I probably had a legitimate 6 hours of homework, while the rest of them had significantly less, however they were also on Facebook for most of the time, which significantly lowered their productivity. I actually ended up finishing my homework before they did.

What causes someone to go on Facebook every five minutes and check to see if someone has commented on their status? Even when doing homework, something that requires a very specific focus, people will interrupt it simply to check their wall. Some psychologists believe it to be 'intermittent reinforcement'. Anticipating getting poked by someone, or getting an unexpected bumper sticker from someone can create a psychological high, just like gambling.

This sort of random reward, and more importantly, the possibility of such a high, seems to be hurting productivity. According to an article:

"For some, Facebook is gobbling up more of that time. A recent survey of more than 700 office workers in the United Kingdom found that employees spent at least 30 minutes on either Facebook or MySpace on a typical work day -- with two respondents saying they spent as much as three hours a day on the sites. Global Secure Systems, a U.K.-based IT security firm that conducted the survey, estimates these daily visits are costing employers several billion dollars a year in lost productivity."

It seems clear that Facebook has both addictive properties and negative effects on productivity. These links agree with my initial story about homework on a Sunday afternoon. I am glad that I haven't fallen victim to the trap of Facebook, only going on regularly, and usually only to keep in touch with friends who aren't on campus.

I remember hearing about a couple in Korea leaving their child at home for over a day to go play World of Warcraft and upon returning noticed their child was dead. How can you actually forget about your child for over 24 hours and not expect something bad to happen? This really goes to show the pull of the internet though. If you can leave and forget about your child for an entire day because you're playing an online game, then there has to be a serious attraction to that game. I get the same sense from Facebook too, however it just pulls a different demographic. I think Facebook tends to attract many more females than males, especially in the high school and college age demographics. I also think the Pew demographics we went over in class bear this claim out. While guys might spend an entire weekend playing Halo 3 on Xbox Live, girls might spend 50 minutes out of every hour on Facebook over 10 or 12 hours of 'doing homework' on any particular weekend day.

If there's one thing I've learned with multi-tasking and homework it's that it can't be done. You cannot be checking out other people's profiles, updating your status, and writing a term paper or studying for a test. If you change just one thing about your Facebook usage, stop pretending to multi-task with it, you can't, and your enjoyment of its use will be tainted by doing homework while using it, and the quality of your homework, as well as your interactions on Facebook will suffer.