Ok, that is probably a rhetorical question but if we are, is there real cause for concern?
By now I'm sure most of you would have already heard about the brave attempt by The Harrisburg University of Science and Technology to block access to social networking sites from its campus wireless network for one week, as reported in Inside Higher Ed. The idea behind the one-week ban was not to torture students (though I'm sure many students felt that way) but to jolt students, staff and faculty into critically thinking about the role social media play in their daily lives. If this ban taught us anything, it is that students find it hard to wean themselves from Facebook. Some students reported going to great lengths to access Facebook such as walking several blocks to a nearby hotel lobby just to log into Facebook or hacking into the campus network just to get around the access block.
Why would universities care so much as to block access to social networking sites? After all, isn't Facebook just another mode of communication? Some psychologists would disagree, especially when time spent on Facebook is cutting into the hours that should be spent on class assignments or projects. Rob Bedi, a registered psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Victoria, said there's a difference between procrastination and addiction and some students' Facebook habits are cutting close to the latter. This has led Bedi to conclude that popular social networking site may be hazardous.
According to psychologists like Bedi, you might be a borderline Facebook addict if you exhibit some of the following behaviors - 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 think might be an addict, help is never too far away because there are many websites that provide strategies on how to beat the addiction.
The above articles portray Facebook in a negative light but fail to ask one important question - why are we addicted to Facebook in the first place? Could it be that Facebook has now become an extension of ourselves? It is something we do as an integral part of our daily lives such as maintaining social ties and developing new ones. We are essentially doing the same social things but through a different channel, one with greater convenience, ease and efficiency. Updating your status on Facebook reduces the amount of time and effort needed to maintain real world friendships; organizing an event is so much easier when you can keep track of the number of people who will be attending it; sharing photos on Facebook means more friends can see them without you having to bring your photo album wherever you go. Facebook allows you to remain connected to friends and acquaintances with minimal effort while building stronger relationships with close friends and family.
Perhaps, some of us think of Facebook as an addiction because we are still getting used to the newer channels of communications and it is not unusual to feel nostalgic about the 'good old days' and 'good old ways'. That being said, it is always useful to reflect on the ways newer channels of relationship-building have changed the ways we maintain friendships and communication - Are the newer channels of relationship building (i.e. Facebook) any better or worse than traditional channels or are they just too different to compare?