Time suckers…yes they are…the Facebook addiction! We are trapped!

It was just this past week while I was working with a group of physicians, one pediatrician asked me why they should care about Facebook. I answered to this 25 year veteran of children’s medicine…look at the numbers. The gate keeper to medical decisions in families are women from the ages of 25-44 and these women are the main audiences on Facebook. The pediatrician looked at me and he understood…but I could tell something was bothering him. It is the same thing that is bothering me…time management. How do we squeeze this into their ever busy lives.

Nielsen released social networking stats showing that women from the ages of 18-34 are the most active on social networks. 53.5% of all U.S. social network users spend the most time on Facebook. Last week, Facebook shared that 500 Million people have been on Facebook on any given day. According to Facebook, the new profile will be your story, revealing your life in one single page. That is scary when you think about it…our life charted out in one single page. Are we addicted? You would think that the top addictions in the US might be smoking and gambling, nope. Here is a list of America’s Top 5 Addictions according to best selling author of Addict Nation, Jane Velez-Mitchell:

1. Prescription Pill Addiction
2. Food Addiction
3. Addiction to Crime and Punishment
4. Addiction to Shopping
5. Addiction to Technology
Jane Velez-Mitchell’s book Addict Nation suggests “Cyber addiction is perhaps the most complex societal contagion America is facing today because the nature of the Internet is all encompassing. There is email, texting, Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Skype, Google, Yahoo, iTunes, and innumerable chat rooms. The Internet also acts as a porthole for other addictions like online gambling and porn, making it easy to score with a simple ‘click.'”

There is even a new disorder call the Facebook Addiction Disorder or FAD. Yes, I kid you not! FAD, or Facebook Addiction Disorder, is “a condition that is defined by hours spent on Facebook, so much time in fact that the healthy balance of the individual’s life is affected. It has been said that approximately 350 million people are suffering from the disorder that is detected through a simple set of six-criteria. People who are victims of the condition must have at least 2-3 of the following criteria during a 6-8 month time period.” Click here to read more about Facebook Addiction Disorder and The 6 Symptoms of FAD.

It is no surprise that social media outlets are time suckers. More and more organizations are questioning whether they should let employees interact on social networks while in the workplace. But here is a new part of that equation. The more time we spend, the larger the network grows…but the new variable are the changes made to outlets like Facebook. The more changes made, the more time we spend trying to figure out the changes, the more the community grows, the more we are not willing to vacate our investment.

Yes…Facebook has been making changes and as the largest social network, community members find it hard to vacate the experience. So many pictures are uploaded, so many friends online, so much time we engage and share our precious information.

I have to admit, I logged on this afternoon and I felt a bit overwhelmed. I sat an wondered, how much of my information is private? How much time is it going to take to figure out the changes? How much more am I going to have to worry about who sees what, what is shared, and what is shared with who. With the increasing amount of privacy settings (offered by Facebook including the ability to segment our updates via lists, public statuses, and now the subscribe option), these options continue to create so many segmented channels, we are having to increasingly spend more time thinking who we are sharing “what” information.

These options, yes all these new privacy options we highly requested as community members. As we received more and more friend invitations, we were noticing that more and more people were creeping into our lives. We began accepting invitations from people we might have met once, yet felt obliged to accept. Admit it…so many times you selected accept because you knew they knew someone you see daily or they sit in the cubicle next to you. This obligation has been causing the amount of people we are friends with in Facebook to increase to a point where it is just getting out of control. This increase caused our concerns of privacy which led to mass audiences requesting more options to segment information…and here we stand. Trying to figure out how to manage all these options…we are trapped.

We are now trapped in a predicament whether to thin out our friends on Facebook or submit to the multitude of options when it comes to how we share, let’s say, the pictures of children. Yes…we uploaded that new picture and for a brief second…we wondered, who needs to see this and how will I manage who tags the picture and which list it should be posted. Yes…these options have created a decision pattern that is beginning to detract from the main reason we joined Facebook…to share.

This culture of choosing is trickling down into our daily lives, this idea of who is a part of of our Facebook friends list is dictating who we are taking to during lunch or our business relationships. I have heard more and more conversations in businesses describing or sharing a story as they are wondering why they were de-friended or even blocked. This offline exchange is creating the barometer for which we are choosing our in-person relationships.

Family relationships are learning their status in the family when they notice a brother-in-law, sister-in-law, or even maternal relationships change online. The family dinners are surrounded by the uncomfortable lack of conversation as each person wonders why they are no longer receiving status updates from the loved one sitting beside them.  This Facebook culture is beginning to shape our in-person lives, creating larger divisions just because we tagged someone in a picture they did not feel they looked their best. Admit it…you have been mad at mom or dad when they captured a picture of you not looking your best, then uploaded to Facebook, tagged your name, which put’s that no so good image out there for your circle of online friends to see. Better shave everyday.

We created these options…we wanted the ability to only share a picture, a status update, a piece of life-like information only with certain people. These options we requested and now, we have bought into these options with same hard distinctions as the high school party invitations. This thing we call Facebook has now infiltrated our every move, with hours of investment that we have a hard time living without. We have so much time invested…stopping for a week is just like giving up cigarettes. This addiction is shaping our culture. It is a time sucker and we created this Facebook. They gave us what we wanted.

So…my thesis is ths: The more time we spend on Facebook, the larger the community grows, the more Facebook will continue to make changes!

*** Image credit http://mytechquest.com/facebook/22-cool-desktop-wallpapers-for-facebook-lovers/