Are Social Networks Making You A Little Crazy?

Do I look a little crazy to you? If I do, it's probably Facebook to thank, since I, and apparently many others, have "Internet addiction". Well, truth be told, I don't have an addiction to the extent that some do, as Dr. Uri Nitzan exposed in a paper published to the Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences this past fall. Some can become so addicted, that they become dependant on it, and can even head toward psychosis.

In his study, Nitzan evaluated three people who became addicted to social networks - Facebook, namely - with all three recovering in the end thanks to proper treatment and care. Across his patients, Nitzan found three common links; these people felt lonely or vulnerable (sometimes due to the loss of a loved one), had relative inexperience with technology and finally, didn't have a history of psychosis or substance abuse.

When someone visits a social networking site like Facebook and happen to be lonely, this study shows that they can become very attached very quickly - not just to the service itself, but specific people. In some cases, they can develop relationships and attachments with people they've never met in person, and when anything in that online relationship goes awry, it can take a toll on their well-being.

Worse still, sometimes these relationships can lead to an exposing of private information, which in turns makes these people feel exposed themselves - and feeling vulnerable is never a great thing.

While Dr. Nitzan's study revolved around social networks, these problems are hardly exclusive to it. Anything social can soak people in and not let them go. In an MMO I used to play, a clanmate almost had their kids taken away due to their addiction to the game. In this particular case, this person wasn't lonely (still married, and with kids), but the pull of an environment like this was too much.

Obviously, the best cure for an issue like this is to break away cold turkey. In my experience, there's never such thing as "slowing down". Even personally, I have found my productivity to lack at times due to my automatic re-checking of Facebook, Reddit and other sites each day. It got to a point where I even installed a browser plugin (StayFocusd) where I can enable a "nuclear" option that prevents me from being able to visit these sites until a certain amount of time has passed. It's silly that one would have to go to such lengths, but it is what it is.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go check my Facebook.