The Face of Facebook Addiction

By Maggie Vespa

May 18, 2011 Updated May 20, 2011 at 1:37 PM CDT

'Friend.' 'Like.' 'Follow.'

These are just a few of the terms that have received new meanings in recent years, thanks to a website you may have heard of. It's called Facebook.

Experts say the famous social media site is now a part of our daily lives more than ever before. But is that a good thing?

It puts the phrase 'join the crowd' on a whole other level. The Facebook club now makes up nearly 10% of the world's population.

Experts say while most of the 665 million-plus Facebook users can log on and off in a healthy time frame, some simply 'like' the site too much.

28 year-old Sarah McDonald is not one of them. Well, not really.

"um, maybe a little bit. not a whole lot..." said McDonald.

But when she thinks about it...

"When I'm at work, and I take my breaks, I go on Facebook. On my lunch, I go on Facebook," said McDonald.

In all, the Peoria wife and mother of two averages two to three hours a day on Facebook. Child's play to 20 year-old Jason Howell, who says he's on "practically 24/7."

The ICC student says he uses the site not just to check up on others, but also to give them something to check up on themselves.

"I post a lot of things, links, pictures. I re-tweet a lot," said Howell.

Then there's Misty Briggs of South Pekin. She uses Facebook to keep in touch with family.

"I have a brother who lives in North Dakota.. My brother my sister in law, a lot of family," said Briggs.

One family member in particular.

"I have another son who doesn't live here. So pretty much the only way I keep in touch with him throughout the week," said Briggs.

Briggs says she, like McDonald and Howell, logs on multiple times a day, every day.

Dr. Phil Scherer of Peoria says it's that kind of behavior that could lead to problems down the road.

"If you're a parent and you're spending less time with your children, if your a husband who's spending less time with his wife or vise-versa because you're on the internet, these things all suffer because of that behavior," said Dr. Scherer.

Director of the local Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery, Scherer says social media is more enticing now, because it covers more than just socializing. Users can follow businesses, music, religion.. just about anything.

Scherer says temptation is bolstered by the constant connection available through smart phones- something that has treatment specialists rethinking their decades old approach to internet addiction; which boiled down to simply shutting it down.

"Now we have to talk about 'what are your needs, and how do we help you adapt a plan so that you can stay within some parameters," said Dr. Scherer.

So how do you know if you're addicted?

Scherer says...

-If you increased the amount of time you spend on social media in recent years...
-If you feel anxious or upset when you can't access social media...

-Or you've tried to cut back and failed, you may be addicted and should consider treatment.

These are all questions our three "Facebookers" now must ask themselves. As we challenged them to give it up completely for one week.

Were they successful? And either way, what did that week teach them about the prevalence of social media in their daily lives?

Tune in next week to find out.

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