When we first heard the story of Paul and Rachel Baier, we were amused and then inspired. Maybe it’s just a quirk, but we like responsible parenting stories, especially if said stories involve bribing—errr— motivating kids to do something more productive with their time. For “Father of the Year” candidate Paul Baier, it may have been a stroke of genius that prompted him to offer Rachel, his 14-year-old daughter, a six-month Facebook deactivation contract worth $200. Now, whether Rachel can hold out until June or not is something that we will leave to the powers that be. But make no mistake about it: we will be rooting for Ms. Baier to collect her money and come out as a better person once this parenting win experiment is over.
Why it’s hard to quit Facebook
Google “Facebook addiction” right now and you’ll get page after page of articles proving that it is a real condition. And you know what? We can actually understand why, even for non-addicts, going cold turkey on the social networking site would be difficult. Sure, you can argue that a bad habit doesn’t automatically equate to an addiction; and you can even accuse us of exaggerating all of this. After all, the world got on fine (many, many moons ago) without Zuckerberg’s so-called Frankenstein Monster. So in theory, Rachel Baier or anyone really, should be able to manage a Facebook-less existence without breaking a sweat, right?
Well, not quite, at least according to some experts like Los Angeles clinical therapist Elika Kormeili who posits that “the reason Facebook and other social media are so addicting and hard to quit is due to the instant gratification that they provide.” She explains, “There is a sense of satisfaction each time someone ‘likes’ or comments on your status update. This in turn boosts our self-esteem and reinforces the Facebook cycle.”
Put this way, you have to admit that there really must be something deeper to this Facebook dependence or addiction disorder or whatever you want to call it. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be a BFAS or Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale; and it would be much easier for people to kick the FB habit for good. Think about it. Would you keep your account if all it gives you is the opportunity to stalk your exes, remember friends’ birthdays and post 100 or so pictures of your vacation in Cabo? Probably not, unless that’s all you use Facebook for, in which case, yay? Okay, we’re not even sure if we should congratulate you for that one but you’ll definitely get no judgment from us.
To quit, or not to quit
So let’s say that you can put a specific value on your Facebook usage and that you can, like Rachel, use it as a bargaining chip. Would you charge more than $200, or would you get less than five bucks since you don’t (perhaps) use the social networking site that much? If you’re not sure, you can rate yourself on the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale, which is reportedly the first of its kind in the world. All you have to do is to answer honestly how often you spend time on Facebook or plan to use it, how frequently you feel the urge to use FB, and four other questions phrased as statements. Yes, statements, because you can’t answer like these are essay questions, and the only acceptable responses are: very often, often, sometimes, rarely, and very rarely. Now if you find yourself answering very often or often, it may be time for you to rethink your relationship with Facebook. What we’re saying is that maybe you should consider giving FB its space, you know, before it gets a restraining order and make things awkward for everyone in your circle of friends. Kidding aside, you may need to quit FB for a bit or for good; especially if it’s having a negative impact on your studies or job. And it’s probably a good idea to do it soon before your loved ones stage an intervention or call an 800 number to get advice on how to help you.