Thanks to a group of researchers in Norway, people can now measure the severity of their Facebook addiction using the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale (BFAS). It is thought to be the first time psychologists have formally recognised social media dependency as a real addiction, and the scale is the first of its kind in world.

The BFAS consists of six statements, which users respond to by grading their social network dependency.

The statements are:
• 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

The possible responses for each statement are as follows: (1) Very rarely, (2) Rarely, (3) Sometimes, (4) Often, and (5) Very often. Scoring ‘often’ or ‘very often’ on at least four of the six items might suggest that you are addicted to Facebook.

After coming up with the BFAS scale, Cecilie Schou Andreassen and her colleagues at the University of Bergen in Norway recruited 227 female and 196 male students to test its effectiveness. They discovered that women were more at risk of developing Facebook addiction than were men, and that it occurs more regularly among younger than older users. They 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. Andreassen’s study shows that the symptoms of Facebook addiction resemble those of drug and alcohol addiction.