Health And Wellness

If You Obsessively Check Social Media, You Probably Suffer From This Disorder

Photo: PH888 / Shutterstock
woman checking phone

I'm guilty of checking my Facebook page all the time. I check it on my computer, on my phone, and on my tablet.

There really isn't anything that fascinating on my feed, yet I still feel compelled to check it.

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There have been a few celebrity deaths that I found out about early because of Facebook and parties I wasn't invited to, but there isn't anything earth-shattering on there. I've joined other social media sites that are supposed to be the "next big thing," but I've always stayed loyal to Facebook, even when it became clear that young people had moved on and left behind older people.

Facebook isn't that cool these days, especially since every time I turn around, there's a new discovery on how it's screwing up our lives in some way.

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But a 2016 study from researchers at the University Of California, Irvine found that a lack of sleep — in addition to affecting people's moods and productivity — leads to more frequent online activities, such as scrolling Facebook feeds.

"When you get less sleep, you're more prone to distraction," said lead researcher Gloria Mark, a UCI informatics professor. "If you're being distracted, what do you do? You go to Facebook. It's lightweight, it's easy, and you're tired."

Sleep deprivation is an extremely serious condition and can lead to on-the-job injuries and traffic accidents caused by people falling asleep at the wheel. 

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For the study, Mark and her colleagues collected information from 76 UCI undergraduates (34 males and 42 females) for seven days during the spring 2014 quarter.

The study took into account the students' gender, age, course load, and deadlines while relying on sensors to objectively gauge their behavior, activities, and stress levels. Research has shown the devastating ways stress affects your relationship.

The participants' computers and smartphones were equipped with logging software, and time stamps recorded when subjects went from one application window to another, as well as when they spoke on the phone or texted.

The participants were asked to fill out a sleep survey each morning and night, along with some other questionnaires.

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The results were alarming, showing that checking Facebook constantly throughout the day was directly linked with a chronic lack of sleep, as subjects who weren't logging enough sleep at night were logging more time on Facebook during the day.

"There have been lots of studies on how information technology affects sleep. We did the opposite: We looked at how sleep duration influences IT usage," said Mark.

So for now, maybe lay off obsessively checking your Facebook feed. You won't miss anything, I promise. 

Christine Schoenwald has had pieces in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Purple Clover, YourTango, XoJane, and Bustle.

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