Facebook dis(ease)hits SA

Chronic users develop a tolerance, just like drug addicts

Facebook addiction is not just a disease, it breaks up families, says Vashti Botha* (28), a physiotherapist from Durbanville.

“It happened to my parents. My mother (52) and father (55) broke up because my mother developed an obsession with Facebook.

“They were happily married for 27 years, but when my mother discovered Facebook, everything changed. She suddenly began to act differently – did more exercise, began wearing expensive clothes. At first, we thought it might be a good thing and found it quite funny.

“But when she started using Facebook to spy on my father, things got out of hand very quickly. She suspected him of adultery and even started using her friends’ Facebook profiles to find out what he and his friends were doing.

“There are other things she spoke about that I’m too embarrassed to mention ...Remember they’re still my parents.

“They eventually got divorced. It’s so tragic,” said Botha.

Eyewitness News reporter Shamiela Fisher admits she is addicted to Facebook.

“I’m online all day. Facebook is part of my job and my job is my life, so my addiction is justified. I am a journalist and I must know what’s going on out there,” she explains.

Muriel Brent, a clinical psychologist from Stellenbosch, says Facebook “is not an evil, but, like anything, if it is used ‘too much’, it could lead to maladjustment”.

“However, if Facebook starts taking the place of reality and replaces friendships, it becomes an evil.”

But in the South African and global contexts, where many friends and families live or work overseas and are not available for any other type of relationship, Facebook fills the gap.

According Jorgan Harris, a clinical psychologist from Cape Town, there is no official Facebook addiction.

“A study in the US showed that people who are heavy users of the internet and Facebook showed, to a certain extent, the same criteria required for the diagnosis of alcohol and drug addiction,” he said.

“Chronic Facebook addicts develop a tolerance, as with other addictions. They need to visit Facebook more and more.

“They want increasing recognition and, like a gambler, the more they lose, the more they want to carry on to recover their losses. The less recognition you get, the more you will want to try to get it.”

* Not her real name

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