Psychology Medical News Today
Researchers in Norway have published a psychological scale to measure Facebook addiction, the first of its kind worldwide. They wrote about their work in the April 2012 issue of the journal Psychological Reports. They hope that researchers will find the new psychometric tool useful in investigating problem behavior linked to Facebook use.
However, an accompanying article suggests a more useful approach might be to measure addiction to social networking as an activity, rather than addiction to a specific product like Facebook. This is particularly relevant given that Facebook is now more than a social networking site (for instance users can watch videos and films, gamble and play games on the site) and social networking is not confined to Facebook.
The new measure is called the BFAS, short for the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale and is the work of Dr. Cecilie Andraessen at the University of Bergen (UiB), Norway, and colleagues. Andreassen currently leads the Facebook Addiction research project at UiB.
In their paper, Andraessen and colleagues describe how they started out with a pool of 18 items made up of three items for each of the six core elements of addiction: salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict, and relapse.
In January 2011, they invited 423 students (227 women and 196 men) to complete the draft BFAS questionnaire, along with a battery of other standardized self-report scales of personality, sleep, sociability, attitudes towards Facebook, and addictive tendencies.
Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale
Eventually, Andraessen and colleagues finalized the BFAS to six basic criteria, with participants asked to give one the following 5 responses to each one: (1) Very rarely, (2) Rarely, (3) Sometimes, (4) Often, and (5) Very often:
- You spend a lot of time thinking about Facebook or planning how to use it.
- You feel an urge to use Facebook more and more.
- You use Facebook in order to forget about personal problems.
- You have tried to cut down on the use of Facebook without success.
- You become restless or troubled if you are prohibited from using Facebook.
- You use Facebook so much that it has had a negative impact on your job/studies.
Andreassen and colleagues suggest that scoring "often" or "very often" on at least four of the six items may suggest the respondent is addicted to Facebook.
They also found that high scores on the BFAS were linked to going to bed very late and getting up very late.
Andreassen has clear views on why people become addicted to Facebook. She told the press that she and her team notes it tends to happen more among younger than older users.
As of April 2012, Facebook has over 900 million active worldwide users.
"We have also found that people who are anxious and socially insecure use Facebook more than those with lower scores on those traits, probably because those who are anxious find it easier to communicate via social media than face-to-face, " says Andreassen.