The Addictive Psychology Behind Facebook’s Use & Popularity!

Just as alcohol, drugs and cigarettes tend to have a highly “addictive” quality in their nature, Facebook too can be extremely addictive!” me.


Facebook Cartoon By geek and poke

Facebook Cartoon By geek and poke

Not so long ago, we discussed how the use of social media channels, in general, can cause different types of psychological problems or disturbances and how it can have the ability to negatively influence our mental and emotional health. In another post, we discussed the psychology behind people tweeting.

But how about Facebook? What are its psychological manifestations and the psychology behind it and its use? Is it, too, a threat to our not-so-balanced emotional stability? Why is the use of Facebook so addictive?

A study conducted in 2007, discussing the psychology of Facebook, mentions many mental and emotional issues associated to and resulting from using Facebook and so on.

In order to avoid sounding repetitive by reiterating what others have said regarding this issue, I will state my personal opinion of the subject at hand before reading further about it from my research results.

Facebook… In Simple Terms:

Simply put, Facebook is, as the name entails, a book of faces! It is an online library with names, pictures and other information about people you know, would like to know or have known at some point in your life.

Based on that, it goes without saying that some might consider Facebook as a tool to connect to others, to find those from their past and to stay in touch with family and friends locally and abroad. Others might think of it as a platform for fun applications and games that help pass the hours of a boring day. Whatever people think of it, the truth of the matter remains that Facebook, on many different occasions, has the ability to get you addicted. The “how” is what I would like to emphasize next!

Facebook to its Audience is like a Spider to its Prey!

The way I see it, the most loyal Facebook users are in a trance or, for better use of words, under a spell – the spell of technology: wanting to be up-to-date with the newest trends and keeping in touch with present advancements in the field of technology.

But what else does Facebook use to capture its audience?

  • The Desire to Compare: Facebook nourishes our desire, or even need, to compare ourselves to others in terms of looks, traveled destinations, shopping sprees, spouses, friends and so on.
  • The Curiosity Factor: How many times did you find yourselves snooping around in your friend’s albums to see what she was doing on that day when you called and she didn’t pick up? Better yet, how many times did you spend half an hour or more reading your friend’s wall posts to know who said what to her/him? Facebook fulfills the curiosity factor that breeds on our need-to-know need!

    Facebook Addiction by The Oatmeal

    Facebook Addiction by The Oatmeal

  • The Boredom Variable: What could be more addictive than finding something to gap the hours of boredom we suffer at least once a day? Facebook is that bridge which gaps boredom on many levels through games, applications, music and much more.
  • The Jealousy Disease: Are you too jealous? Maybe somewhat insecure about your relationship? Facebook is your pill to getting better! Through its ability to track conversations, events, whereabouts and so on, Facebook provides a perfect platform for solving jealousy issues through stalking options!
  • The Loneliness Phenomenon: Let us be frank here and admit that many of us, at least at one point or another, feel lonely. Facebook has the power to be the cure for loneliness! (It might also cause it in certain events, but that’s besides our point here). If you are feeling lonely, you can call a friend, go out with a group, or just spend hours sending messages to your friends’ Facebook inbox, comment on their pictures, write something fun on their wall and so on!
  • The Ache to Belong: Have you been in a situation where you were asked: “REALLY? You don’t have an account on Facebook? How come?” I am sure at least someone you know has been in this situation. Facebook exploits the ache to belong through its great number of users and affiliates.

Is There A Solution?

Based on my above analysis, I think that the possibility of finding a solution for this Facebook addiction is almost non-existent, especially when you think of the factors that I have mentioned and how they are directly related to our psychological build up and personalities.

Therefore, and to conclude my argument, allow me to ask you the following questions: Do you agree with me that many of us out there are actually “mentally” addicted to Facebook? Do you think this addiction could be dangerous? And can you suggest a cure?

Comments and Reactions

  • http://blog.thoughtpick.com M.Bamieh

    Everything taken in moderation should be ok, and usually the first step to curing an addiction is to admit that you are an addict :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ed-Howes/100000070235902 Ed Howes

    I am a Facebook newbie as of 2 July, I am over subscribed on my email due to increasing opt ins as a price for information I want. I have one friend who knows what I like and forwards items of interest to me, maybe 3 times per day on average. At Facebook I have several friends posting things I am not looking for but want to know about. I visit to see what's on my wall, end up on friend's link page and see things I would have missed and an hour can stretch to 4. I might not have an email conversation on site with a friend for weeks and I might have a long conversational thread with one friend in the course of a long day of repeated check ins. At this stage, I am a social investor. I want more common friends who are active, posting and commenting. The cellular nature of friend networks allows news to travel virally through re-posts.

    I comment at Huffpo and my comments are quickly buried in the threads but with the new Facebook connection, I know a few friends will see the comment and perhaps leave one of their own. I am even newer at Twitter but know between links and quotes, I can always find something my friends will like to post on my Facebook feed. I liken it to voluntary communism. A few of us go shopping for information or it comes to our email in box. We bring it back to our Facebook home and share it with our friends who drop by, some of whom will re-post for their friends. I like humor so I have a few friends who are funny and post on a regular basis. My more serious friends can be very funny on occasions, as I can also. Here is a refuge where appearances count for less than substance.

    I don't believe I am addicted and I don't mind a day without a visit. But I have learned there is a number of pay offs in focused network building that encourage me to invest early to enjoy all the residual benefits because my friends know so much more than I do in their respective areas of interest. Without a doubt, I am receiving the finest education I have yet experienced with only my investment of time. I am addicted to that. However, I am moving more toward sustainable balance as the new year approaches.

  • Joy

    nice one …..

  • http://twitter.com/jazimreg Agon Germizaj

    drug but i cannot say which kind of !!!!

  • http://twitter.com/jazimreg Agon Germizaj
  • Am

    Good observation. I agree that there are people (including myself) who are addicted to Facebook. It's a sure way of cutting down our productivity with studies or work. I think the addiction has been proven to be dangerous, causing some students to flunk classes, or obtain lower grades than they would have if they didn't have a facebook account. It has changed lives both in good and bad ways.

    The cure for addiction? Get a hobby. Learn a sport, a craft, or a foreign language. :P

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  • http://twitter.com/Krud Krud

    I would say Facebook is addictive in the same sense that the internet in general is addictive. I personally don't find Facebook addicting, but there are plenty of other sites that I do (including Twitter.) And yes, I answered the call of “Why don't you have Facebook?” by starting one up, but that has just caused mild headaches as more and more people try to send me animals or snowballs or whatever. I suppose I've not gotten addicted to Facebook for the same reason crackheads don't get addicted to Sudoku — there are already other addictions pre-empting it. o_O

    As for a cure, as with most things cold turkey is the most obvious answer, combined with some other distraction. Like Twitter…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joseph-Assad-Surferjoe/616990032 Joseph Assad Surferjoe

    One Day Everyone In The World Will Have A FB Account.One Day You Will Vote Online On Facebook Too.

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  • Suzi

    I think there must be a way to reap the benefits of using facebook, while not getting trapped into it's addictive qualities. In my opinion the games are designed to be addictive and encourge players to add new “friends” to be successful. They are time consuming. What starts on a boring day becomes a daily habit, taking time away from more productive activities. Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family near and far. For businesses it's free advertising and a way to keep in touch with and gain new customers. Facebook is free amd has email which is a plus. The wall is fun to read, but can be a time waster. We do not really need to know or read about every day of all our friends lives. Some people share too much. Some conversations are better suited to person to person emails. Limiting time on facebook is advisable for not becoming addicted to reading moment by moment status updates. Limiting games played or not at all is way to hinder addiction. Only add people you know to your facebook. People you may see in person. Sercurity is a issue too. Watch what you put out there. Hacking and scams are a problem of facebook too.

  • http://blog.thoughtpick.com/2010/07/facebook-addiction-clinic-to-open-in-the-us-rumor.html Facebook Addiction Clinic to Open in the US… Rumor?

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  • Lijo_31

    great post and true facts, and i couldn't agree more with you. The fact that you can share this post on facebook explains even more about facebook in a way it should be used. Education and sharing knowledge… music wise, politic wise, psychology wise…etc etc etc………. knowledge in general…

  • http://blog.thoughtpick.com/ Beiruta

    Glad you enjoyed it… Stay tuned for more analytical posts and more :)

  • Abhilash Mukundan

    The name “facebook” was meaningful and enough to impress me too as many other millions. Constant appearance of my few friends on facebook and their scraps on walls, made me doubtful about their personality. The above article is pure facts. I'm used to read between lines of my friend's wall post and comments. Now i think, its time to change the name from 'facebook' to 'heartbook' as many of them started commenting about each and every thing of their daily life. Appearing once or twice in a day in facebook is reasonable since it can make gap between our bordome hours. frequent log in shows the curiosity and the face of an attention seeker. Frequent wall post and comments are similar to explain how insecure they are or how much they are getting ignored by their loved ones. Some kind of photos they uploads, is just to relax or belive themselves or we can say that its something like a self made survey to measure whether they are still considerable by their friends and society. Beyond the meaning 'facebook', its an exhibition of their mental and emotional health and a pointer to their personnel life too.

  • Tim

    Yes, I do think most everyone who is involved with facebook is addicted to it. I also think the addiction is damgerous and we don’t even know the effects it will have on us long term psychologically, but one can presume that, like all addictions it will have consequences, and in this case unforeseen consequences. I say unforeseen because we have ebough data to show us what other addictions do, but a social networking easy access addiction like Facebook is too new for us to have collected enough data to see where that road will lead people who are addicted. Suggest a cure? Like any addiction….Stop it.

  • rationalist

    “Society is an illusion. in the real world there are only individuals.” Facebook most certainly fulfills what you call our “needs”. Things like our desires to compare ourselves to others, to cure ourselves of jealousy and bordem
    “facebook provides a perfect platform for solving jealousy issues through stalking options!:Facebook has the power to be the cure for loneliness.”
    I argue that these are not basic psychological needs but flaws of character; Facebook does not fulfill our needs, it enables our vicious behavior. Things like vanity and jealousy are supercharged through the immediate access facebook gives us to others lives. And what we see about people on facebook is never a true representation of the individual, only what that individual allows us to see. One can hide behind a screen and keyboard to avoid real consequences, while on the other side of the coin, if one is too emotionally invested in their facebook they may suffer dramatically over innocuous posts on a screen. I believe it is healthy for ones psyche to have time alone to reflect; instead of feeling the constant pressures of presenting an image to the world.

  • http://twitter.com/MyChildPsych MyChildPsychologist

    There is a new book out that I just came across today–”Alone Together.” There apparently is some mention in this book about the neurobiological research that shows the addictive nature of technology. So, completely agree with you! Cathy Judkins, Ph.D.

  • http://www.henshawconsulting.com.au psychologist perth

    My daughter is very addicted to Facebook but thank God I have controlled her time using the Internet and also adjusted her privacy setting on her account.

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  • http://www.idaremyidea.com idaremyidea

    If people were not mentally adding information communication technologies to their lifestyle what would they be called? and whilst people may admit that they are addicted to facebook may not actually autonomate their need to be authentic with societies need to label them.

    I couldn’t suggest a cure because I would be assuming beyond my own importance instead of re-learning from it?

    Thanks for sharing.

    Spiritually inclined.

  • Aniket Maithani

    I like your point of LONELINESS…. I mean I have myself gone through it and so I know how does it feel to be on that LEVEL. And to add to it after some point you tend to ignore the world around you. But nevertheless one of the best articles I saw over FB ADDICTION!!!! Good Work

  • http://blog.thoughtpick.com/ Beiruta

    Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it. And it is true what you said: Facebook actually kind of alienates you in some ways!

  • http://profiles.google.com/nicolerobinmorris Robin Morris

    Good post. You should read the book “The Social Animal” by David Brooks. Many insights into this type of thing.

    The main attraction to FB is definitely our inherent need to connect to other people, aka ‘loneliness’. I think calling it an addiction is a bit off base. These days everything is an “addiction”. That word implies some kind of mental disorder. It’s not. We are all alone – trapped within ourselves. This is not a disorder it is human nature.

    Robin

  • Geri

    I totally agree Beirut…..I have recently took myself off of facebook and i actually feel FREE…….a number of others have also mentioned the word FREE after taking themselves off of facebook…….makes you think. Funny how they have Facebook “related posts” on this…..and Facebook Likes…buttons….Oh and Twitter side bars…..LOL
    Guess only the realists clue in.

  • Vred

    I think the above description is accurate, but not deep enough. Actually one of the main characteristics of Facebook users (not commented here) is that: the more insecure a person is, the more activity he or she will post.
    People who are sickly active on Facebook are normally insecure and are seeking validation from other people. That’s why they are always putting a bait for others to hook (such as “Today I’m so sad :(” and so on)
    And the validation de-validation process is addictive as any drug.
    Can’t blame the tool, people have the issues already inside…
    Cheers

  • Peach

    I have discovered something sobering about Facebook; that I can be just as codependent in this medium as I used to be in my 3D world. I’ve realised I spend ages replying to other people’s posts, validating and encouraging them, oohing and ahhing over the lastest photo and received zilch attention in return.

    It reminds me of how I often used to feel in old codependent relationships; like a cold, small moon orbiting the drama and self obssession of a large Jupiter. Fascinating that I’ve recreated this. Heavens it’s boring!:D

  • Foxx B.

    This was a great article.  I do think there is one other reason why people get very addicted to Facebook and this should be considered on the list of addictions.  It gives people the opportunity to talk about their all time favorite subject…themselves.

    Recently, a friend of mine of 35 years came to visit me and my wife for a month.  I had not seen this man in years and I was truly disappointed that he was so addicted to Facebook.  If he was not on Facebook, he was texting on his damned telephone to someone else.  Funny…I thought he came to visit us……’n I wuz wrong!

  • Fawkesfox

    Absolutely Vred, and very insightful.

  • tomtom

    delete your facebook delete all your friends and pics so when you give in and reactivate your account its harder to get back on the boat and you will be less motivated to continue. screw fb in the face

  • Gloria

    THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH FACEBOOK JUST LIKE THERES IS NOTHING WRONG WITH EATING FOOD BUT THE PROBLEM IS WHEN U USE IT  OR ABUSE IT TOO MUCH. mODERATION IS THE KEY FOR EVERYTHING INCLUDING FACEBOOK

  • Browning

    Ugh I just spent like 10 mins typing on this iPhone and somehow it just erased everything I typed! It was pretty deep. Now I don’t really feel like redoing it…. Soooo…. So what Facebook is intriguing! It’s not addictive thought. But hey don’t be surprised when drug companies pitch a drug for “Facebook users” give it some time then you’ll see a Tv ad with some depressed man or woman or tween or teen in front of a computer

  • Anon

    You forgot the “I don’t like my life so I will escape from it onto facebook and get wrapped up in what everyone else is doing” excuse. :) As a stay at home mom with three kids under the age of five, I’m sure I don’t know anything about that one. ;)

  • Guirob57

    Hello, you speak about “A study conducted in 2007, discussing the psychology of Facebook, mentions many mental and emotional issues associated to and resulting from using Facebook and so on”
    What is this study ? thanks

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