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Addicted to Facebook? Study shows users are lonelier

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It turns out that as many as one in every three people who use social media like Facebook experience feelings of jealousy and envy after spending time on these sites, according to a new study. 

Related: Addicted to the Internet?

With the growing use of social media as the norm for how we communicate, there is increasing evidence and suggestion that there may be a correlation between how often one uses social media and a linkage to mental health issues.  The fact that a significant percentage of people check Facebook even before they get out of bed is an indication of the social anxieties and pressures that have been created by this new medium.  

The study revealed that significant emotional damage was experienced by users who were looking at positive posts and posts of Facebook friends who were smiling and looking happy.  In some respects, Facebook has become the place for people to flaunt their successes.  When was the last time you saw anyone post something bad or embarrassing that happened to them?  

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In fact, researchers have found vacation photos caused the highest level of resentment among Facebook users who reported to experience a high amount of envy.  In a world already flooded with social pressures where teenagers and young adults are attempting to find their true identity and not be judged, Facebook has created a new standard of social acceptance.  Social interaction has been rated as the second most common cause of envy especially when users compare how many likes or comments were made on their photos and postings.  

For individuals in their mid-30s and 40s Facebook envy was most often experienced by women looking at postings or photographs related to family happiness or physical attractiveness.  If anybody watched the "The Social Network," it is clear the underlying contention by which Facebook was created – a means for rating girls at Harvard – still remains a strong current for social mediums.  If we step back for a moment, one has to ask themselves when the norm for social acceptance was based on quantity versus quality.  

The recent German study is not the first to study the social effects of Facebook.  In fact, a study published in December 2012 found the more time college students spent on Facebook, the worse they felt about their own lives  Some may argue that Facebook is efficient in disbursing virtual empathy since people feel good when a lot of people wish them on their birthday.  The reality of course, is that the numbers game of “likes” is creating a compulsion or addiction.  

Facebook is an addiction when one finds constant pleasure from the experience.  Facebook is a compulsion if it creates an anxiety when one is not online.  It would be interesting to evaluate through a functional MRI if there are new parts of the brain that light up as we get more likes and acceptance on Facebook and whether they are the same areas that light up when we satisfy our craving for food, sex or drugs.  

The reality is that Facebook is not going anywhere anytime soon, and we as a race expect instant gratification in everything that we do including Facebook.  The impact of anxiety and mental health issues in the American population and even worldwide are mounting, and one cannot underestimate the impact of social media in exacerbating circumstances that lead to anxiety and depression.  

A few good questions for people to ask themselves about whether they are addictive to Facebook or not include:
1. Have you tried to shut off your Facebook account and went right back to it?

2. Do you find yourself less productive in your work or studies?

3. Do you use Facebook as an escape for relaxation and pleasure?

4. Do you find yourself constantly checking how many people like your posts?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes..you might have a Facebook compulsion or addiction.

Dr. Sreedhar Potarazu is an acclaimed ophthalmologist and entrepreneur who has been recognized as an international visionary in the business of medicine and health information technology. He is the founder of VitalSpring Technologies Inc., a privately held enterprise software company focused on providing employers with applications to empower them to become more sophisticated purchasers of health care. Dr. Potarazu is the founder and chairman of WellZone, a social platform for driving consumer engagement in health.