Facebook – why do we use it?

How concerned should we be about social networking sites as an addictive entity? The last few years has seen more research in this area. Jacky Power completed research on Facebook addiction with London South Bank University and shares her findings in a series of four articles:




 a reason for doing something:

Why do people use Facebook? Boredom, keeping in touch with distant relatives, finding out what’s going on either on a local or global scale are all reasons that I have been given anecdotally. What I was interested in finding out in my research with Dr. Jacqui Lawrence at London South Bank University is what is underneath the surface of all of that – are there interconnected reasons which drive usage? If we pinpoint some of those reasons, will it help in our understanding – and more importantly treatment – of the emerging phenomenon of Facebook addiction?


Social networking sites present new opportunities for individuals in how they express themselves, learn, communicate and socialise (Livingstone & Brake, 2010). Researchers have identified that networking sites such as Facebook may be particularly appealing to certain people because the individual can choose whether to interact synchronously (in real time e.g. texting or talking on the phone) or asynchronously (e.g with a potential time lag such as email or posting on an SNS). Those who find face to face interactions tricky may favour Facebook because they are in control of the pace, time and manner of the social interaction (McKenna & Bargh, 2000).So the first layer of the onion – as it were – is that it can possibly alleviate some anxiety on how to interact socially.


Nadkarni and Hoffman (2012) did an extensive review of the research already done on Facebook use and they narrowed the motivation for use down to two key needs: the need for self presentation and the need to belong. The way in which an adult satisfies their need for self presentation could be problematic for certain individuals. Facebook can be used by people to selectively present themselves much more akin to their ideal self (Gonzales & Hancock, 2010). Theoretically, this can present all sorts of consequences. A person can present themselves in a favourable way which is rewarded through ‘likes’ and positive comments on their Facebook wall. In reality, this can make them feel like a fraud because the ideal self that they have presented is not in line with their actual self. This could possibly lead to an ever increasing dissatisfaction with their actual life and the subsequent fall out that this may bring as well as an increase in their involvement with their online life. As explored in the Guardian (8th September 2016) recently, the phenomena of the selfie and retouching of one’s perceived imperfections is a reality which has grown exponentially in the last couple of years. Alternatively, the individual presenting their ideal self may attract responses from others based upon what they have presented which can lead to a disconnect in the relationship. Either way, expectations do not meet the reality.


Alternatively, the need to belong may drive more voyeuristic use of Facebook – checking out what others are doing or saying to try and figure out the magic formula to be included in the ‘in group’. The constant updates, pictures and comments on Facebook can make this an unreachable target; a fleeting moment of ‘fitting in’ rather than belonging. Furthermore, our view of ourself and our view of others is fundamentally affected by our style of attachment. It’s not just about how we believe we present ourselves but also about the filters that we have about how others perceive us and it was for this reason that I also looked at how our style of attachment may drive our motives for Facebook use.

Jacky Power is an Addictions Therapist and has worked in centres in Guildford and Farnham. Jacky has recently started up her own private practice. She is passionate about supporting people in their journeys from addiction to recovery and has a particular interest in supporting the addict’s loved ones who have also been affected by the consequences of addiction. www.jackypower.com

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