ImproveYour Mental Health: Cut Back on Facebook

Yesterday I wrote an article about Facebook Addiction*.  Namely, I provided some questions to ask yourself to determine if your Facebook use is having a negative impact on your mental health.  Take a look.

Today I am thinking about how to make changes in our Facebook use.  Keeping in mind that Facebook is not necessarily an evil force in all of our lives, but that for many of us it can cause some pretty negative and unnecessary emotions.

Some tips for changing your Facebook use so that it adds to your mental health (rather than taking away from it).

  • Set a time to check your Facebook account.  For example, check it on your lunch hour only.  The rest of the day is Facebook-free time.
  • Set an amount of time to check/post to Facebook.  For example, set aside 3o minutes/day to read and post – the timer on your phone or computer can come in handy with this one.  When the time is up, leave it alone until the next day.
  • Hide people whose posts upset you.  Why do I still read the “friend’s” posts that make me mad? We all have friends who post things we would rather not read.  Take the control Facebook gives you and hide their posts from your feed.
  • Don’t accept every friend request.  This may be a generational thing, but I don’t think we need to be “friends” with everyone.  As in the above tip, use the control you have and be selective of the people you let in to your Facebook world.
  • Consider a Facebook holiday.  I have a friend who is giving up Facebook for Lent.  If you really want to know how Facebook is affecting you, run an experiment and notice your mood now, and then after giving it up for a few days or a week.  See a big change for the better? Perhaps it’s time to give it up for good.

*Please note that Facebook Addiction is not an official diagnosis in the DSM-IV (or V as far as I know).  While it is not a “real” diagnosis, overuse of Facebook can certainly be detrimental to mental health.

Are You Addicted to Facebook?

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about Facebook.  She was wondering why so many of us continue to use Facebook when it makes so many of Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 10.39.48 AMus “crazy.”  And by crazy I mean: frustrated, sad, unworthy, annoyed, angry, jealous, and/or pissed off.  You know what I’m talking about: Facebook use can result in all types of emotions, many of them not so great.  For example, spending just a few minutes looking at my Facebook account this morning resulted in the following emotions:

  • excitement over a friend’s news that she is pregnant with baby #3
  • bewilderment/irritation over a couple distant friends and family member’s persistence in posting potentially offensive religious and political posts
  • jealousy over a friend’s pronouncement that she can still fit into her senior prom dress
  • revulsion/anger at the NY Times article about junk food science making the rounds in social media

So why do we continue to subject ourselves to this? Do we really need this extra stress in our lives? How do we know if we are “addicted*” to Facebook?

Some important questions to ask ourselves:

  • Is my time on Facebook keeping me from fulfilling my other duties in life (taking care of self and/or children, doing my job, etc)
  • Does my time or activity on Facebook cause problems at work?
  • Does my time or activity on Facebook cause problems in my interpersonal relationships?
  • Do I neglect “real” people or responsibilities in order to spend more time on Facebook?
  • Does what I read on Facebook have a significant impact on my mood everyday or most days?
  • Do I ever lie about my Facebook use, or hide it from others?

If you answered “yes” to more than 2 or 3 of these questions, it sounds like your Facebook use has a pretty huge impact on your daily life.  This might not be the best thing for your mental health.  Perhaps it’s time to change the way you use social media, and Facebook in particular.  Stay tuned for tips on how to cut back on Facebook.

*Please note that Facebook Addiction is not an official diagnosis in the DSM-IV (or V as far as I know).  While it is not a “real” diagnosis, over use of Facebook can certainly be detrimental to mental health.

Addicted to Facebook?

I hear people say this a lot: “I am soooo addicted to Facebook!”  I think they typically mean to say that they like Facebook and spend a lot of time on it.  But as one of my readers recently asked, is it possible to be really and truly addicted to Facebook?   As in, bad things start happening in life because of a user’s Facebook time?  This is a great question and one I have been thinking a lot about since my reader asked.  So, first things first:  What does “addiction” really mean?  According to the DSM-IV, ONE of the following things need to be present in order for one to qualify for a diagnosis of substance abuse (and let’s just assume for a moment that Facebook can be considered a substance):

  1. Recurrent use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g., repeated absences or poor work performance related to substance use; substance related absences, suspensions, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household). This one is definitely possible when talking about Facebook.  Again, this isn’t going to apply to the vast majority of Facebook users, even the die-hards.  But for those who find themselves constantly checking their friends’ statuses, playing games, searching for new friends – to the detriment of their other duties in life – they may indeed meet this criteria.
  2. Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving an automobile or operating a machine when impaired by substance use). At first I thought this point wouldn’t apply to Facebook use, but then I thought of Facebook-ing while driving.  In very extreme cases, it would be possible for folks to have gotten into legal trouble because of Facebook-ing while driving and yet continuing to engage in the behavior.
  3. Recurrent substance related legal problems (e.g., arrests for substance related disorderly conduct). I don’t know about this one.  Can one get into legal trouble on Facebook?
  4. Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance (e.g., arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication, physical fights). This is one I have actually seen in real life.  Husbands complaining that they never see their wives anymore because they spend so much time on Facebook.  Wives complaining that their husbands won’t stop playing Facebook games long enough to engage with their families.   Perhaps these things can be warning signs of troubled Facebook use, and the possibility of more serious problems down the road.

So, what’s the conclusion; can we become addicted to Facebook?  I think the answer is yes.  While Facebook is not a mood or mind-altering substance (like alcohol or drugs), its overuse can cause “clinically significant impairment or distress.”  Concerned about your own Facebook habit?  Try curtailing your use – or totally abstaining – for the next week or two.  Set specific “Facebook time” in which you can enjoy checking up on your friends, but declare Facebook off limits during other times of the day.