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I’ve referenced tech addiction before while talking about other things. Maybe I should’ve given it more of a spotlight of its own. In particular, there’s one subset that seems to be getting attention more and more over the past few years: social media addiction.

It’s one thing to check-in occasionally, peruse your tweeples with a few minutes to kill or even share cool things with your Facebook friends. But it’s another thing to be at it slavishly, with no self-control to stop. When the balance of a healthy life is affected by extreme behaviors, this is a signal that addiction may be taking place.

We know that internet addiction is real, and these networks — Facebook, in particular — have attracted a lot of attention. While some continue to research its contradictory effects — that it promotes feelings of both connectedness and disconnectedness — others are treating it as a genuine disorder in clinics. There’s even a term coined for it: FAD, or Facebook Addiction Disorder. Reports suggest it affects about 350 million people.

In light of that, two articles jumped onto my radar recently, one from the Social Times, titled “Facebook Addiction Disorder — The 6 Symptoms of F.A.D.,” and the other from GeekSugar, called “5 Signs of Social Addiction.” According to these articles, if you suspect that you or someone you know might be afflicted, there are a few signs you can look out for, including the following:

  1. You are constantly, incessantly, checking for updates… and you don’t stop, whether at work or at home.
  2. You can’t enjoy a good moment because you’re too wrapped up “sharing” it. Or you forego real-life social opportunities for online ones.
  3. You feel ill at ease when you can’t check in — even anxiety or distress.
  4. You have a huge network, the majority of which are people you don’t personally know.
  5. The more contact/Friend requests you get, the better you feel — it may even trigger temporary euphoria.
  6. You regularly have multiple windows open for Facebook and/or other social media accounts, and possibly various profiles (for your cat, dog, gadget, kid, etc…).

This may seem familiar to some of you, or it may describe someone you know. With more than 600 million Facebook users, not to mention the other networks, chances are good that someone in your life is exhibiting at least some of these signs. But when it comes to behavioral addictions — like with gambling, sex, or food — it can be hard to pinpoint… and even harder to treat.

So what can you do? Well, there are a couple of approaches to try, at least to start off with. First, designate an hour of offline time at home, immediately after work or school. It not only gives the opportunity to decompress after a hectic day, but it offers a starting point on which more time can be added later, if need be.

Also try using a timer to signal the beginning of online time. Let’s face it — if the behavior’s extreme, then yes, it could take something this specific to instill some self-control. The timer is handy, because it can also be set for allotments, say 15 minutes, for logging in and indulging.

But most of all, the biggest key is recognizing if this behavior is throwing everything else out of whack. The old AA adage — the first step is admitting you have a problem — applies here too. Because there’s little anyone can do, if the user doesn’t think there’s a problem.

Do you know anyone who indulges a little too much in their social networks? Or are you an admitted Facebook fiend, but see nothing wrong with it? Whether you believe the behavior’s a real cause for concern, or think it’s just a normal characteristic of modern life, weigh in with your opinion below.

[via Social TimesGeekSugar]