Social Networking Addiction / FaceBook Addiction

Many people, including therapists and medical doctors, mistakenly consider addiction to be about dysfunction in the brains pleasure center.  This is incorrect.  Although it may seem like a semantic difference to the uninitiated, addiction is about dysfunction in the reward center of the brain.  The reward center serves the evolutionary purpose of releasing a feeling of satisfaction after a certain action is taken.  For example, eating a full meal or having sex. Being rewarded for these activities was registered as rewarding, thus leading humans to repeat the behavior and continue the species. The disease of addiction hijacks that process, and addicts are actually seeking the reward response rather than the pleasure response when craving their addictive substance or behaviors.  Addiction is a disease of learning and memory, and the addicts brain learns that certain behaviors (including drinking or drugging) lead to activity in their reward circuit. (note that this is a simplified and partial explanation of the medical explanation of addiction.  Full coverage of this topic is beyond the scope of this conversation).

I call this the "gold star system gone awry".  In other words, the look on a child's face when they are awarded a gold star for doing whatever positive and desirable thing that they did in order to achieve the star is an example of the healthy exercise of this brain circuitry.  I use this reference because I think it facilitates the easiest to understand example of behavioral addictions.  In fact, understanding the "gold star system gone awry" makes social networking/FaceBook addiction seem almost obvious.  Imagine the same child who thrived under the gold star system is now an adolescent (or adult) who has discovered social networking.  Constantly checking for an update, post, feedback, thumbs up, etc. provides continuous activation of the reward circuitry.  Do it enough and the system breaks.  That person is now compelled to obtain social networking feedback in order to maintain what has become a normal level of activity in their reward center.

The above is a highly simplified (and partial) explanation of the addictive process.  Listed below are some highly detailed academic articles on the topic:

Social networking generally (Andreassen & Pallesen, 2013; Emre & İŞBULAN, 2012; Karaiskos, Tzavellas, Balta, & Paparrigopoulos, 2010; Kuss & Griffiths, 2011; Salehan & Negahban, 2013; Weiss & Samenow, 2010),

Facebook specifically (Andreassen, Torsheim, Brunborg, & Pallesen, 2012; Carmody, 2012; Griffiths, 2012; Kittinger, Correia, & Irons, 2012; Koc & Gulyagci, 2013; Rosen, Whaling, Rab, Carrier, & Cheever, 2013).