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5/11/2012
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Might As Well Face It, You're Addicted To Facebook

New research says Facebook addiction is real. That might be a good thing for your business.

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Robert Palmer famously sang, "You can't sleep, you can't eat. There's no doubt, you're in deep." The song, of course, is "Addicted to Love". But the same symptoms could apply if you're addicted to Facebook.

That's right--researchers at the University of Norway say Facebook addiction is real, and they have developed a tool for measuring whether you are among those with a social media monkey on your back.

In a study published in the April 12, 2012, Psychological Reports journal, the researchers describe the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale (BFAS), which they administered to 423 college students. The scale is based on six criteria; those who were tested reported whether the criteria applied to them very rarely, rarely, sometimes, often, or very often.

[ Is Facebook the best social platform for your business? Here's how to decide. Which Social Media Network Makes The Most Business Sense? ]

How would you rate yourself on the following? --You spend a lot of time thinking about Facebook or planning use of Facebook. --You feel an urge to use Facebook more and more. --You use Facebook to forget about personal problems. --You have tried to cut down on the use of Facebook without success. --You become restless or troubled if you are prohibited from using Facebook. --You use Facebook so much that it has had a negative impact on your job or studies.

The study suggests that younger people, women, and extroverted people are more at risk for addiction, while people who are organized and ambitious are less at risk. People in the latter group are safer, it is theorized, because they are using Facebook and other social networks mostly for business purposes.

I think Facebook addiction is probably a subset of Internet addiction. There are reams of studies that demonstrate the addictive qualities of the Internet in general, including "The Psychometric Properties of the Internet Addiction Test," published in CyberPsychology & Behavior in 2004. That study said, "Neglect of academic, work, and domestic responsibilities, disruption of relationships, social isolation, and financial problems have all been identified as consequences of heavy Internet usage. That people should use the Internet to the extent that they experience such problems gives rise to the question of whether or not the Internet may be addictive."

It's probably true that people can develop a dependence on just about anything, and I by no means take addiction lightly. But in thinking about the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale, I realized that organizations probably should be answering "very often" to the first two criteria.

Is your organization spending a lot of time thinking about Facebook or planning the use of Facebook? If not, it should be. It should at least be thinking about it to the extent that it can articulate a good reason for not having Facebook presence.

Does your organization feel an urge to use Facebook more and more? As Facebook continues to gain users, and as it continues to be the place where businesses market and sell their wares, build engagement with their audience, provide customer service, and develop apps, your organization should be feeling an urge to use the network more and more.

As for the other criteria, well, here's hoping you and your colleagues aren't in the "very often" camp on those. But we can probably learn some lessons from those who are.

How would you score on the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale? Do you think Facebook addiction is real? For that matter, can people be addicted to Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest? We appreciate your insight and invite you to comment below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter @debdonston.

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