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Who Quits Facebook? Study Says Internet-Addicted, Private People

File photo, two workers inside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.  (AP)

Facebook is a way to stay connected in an increasingly digital world. (AP)

Facebook boasts more than a billion active monthly users, and the numbers keep growing. But recently, a counter-trend has emerged: many Facebook members have been pulling the plug on their accounts. Is there a difference between the types of people who continue to use the website and those who deactivate?  A new study suggests that “Facebook quitters,” as the researchers put it, have different personality traits from those who stay. From the paper’s abstract:

We found Facebook quitters to be significantly more cautious about their privacy, having higher Internet addiction scores, and being more conscientious than Facebook users. The main self-stated reason for committing virtual identity suicide was privacy concerns (48 percent).

And from the press release:

If you are ready to commit “virtual identity suicide,” delete your Facebook account, and say good-bye to social networking sites, you are not alone. A social networking counter movement is emerging, and Facebook quitters, who remove their accounts, differ from Facebook users in several key ways, as described in an article in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

“Given high profile stories such as WikiLeaks and the recent NSA surveillance reports, individual citizens are becoming increasingly more wary of cyber-related privacy concerns,” says Brenda K. Wiederhold, PhD, MBA, BCIA, Editor-in-Chief of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, from the Interactive Media Institute, San Diego, CA. “With photo tags, profiling, and internet dependency issues, research such as Professor Stieger’s is very timely.”

On a related note: a recent article in the New Yorker discussed how certain types of Facebook use can make people unhappy. If users lurk around the site, they are more likely to be psychologically affected by practicing social comparison. But according to the article, if users actively participate in online dialogue, they gain happiness from Facebook use.

Put those findings together with this new study on quitters, and a purely speculative hypothesis could present itself: a concern for privacy could prevent people from fully interacting with Facebook; but because this behavior causes unhappiness, they might be more likely to become quitters.

Readers, have you quit Facebook or do you know someone who has? Why did you or they commit “virtual identity suicide”?

Facebook Depression? Not So Fast Say MGH Shrinks

Facebook doesn't cause depression, say a pair of MGH psychiatrists

So, the highly influential American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a report on the impact of social media on kids and families, and in it the group cites a newish phenomenon afflicting teenagers called “Facebook Depression.”

They define the disorder like this: “depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.”

Well, a pair of child psychiatrists from Massachusetts General Hospital challenge the AAP’s assertion that a specific depressive disorder linked to Facebook exists, in a piece on the MGH website. The psychiatrists, Dr. Eugene Beresin, Director of the Center for Mental Health and Media at the MGH Department of Psychiatry and Associate Director Dr. Tristan Gorrindo suggest such a diagnosis could be problematic in several ways.

For one thing, Dr. Beresin says, it trivializes a serious neurobiological disorder (“Oh, it’s just Facebook Depression — not to worry” ).

Moreover, he adds, simply spending several hours fixed on a single activity might not necessarily be so bad. “I was groomed to be a concert pianist,” Beresin says. “I practiced piano 3, 4 hours a day, and no one called me “pianist depressed.”

And for some painfully awkward or shy kids, Facebook, or other social media, might actually be the pathway toward better social integration, he says.

Here, the doctors explain further:

While we applaud the efforts of the AAP to bring the dangers of unmonitored or extensive social media use to the attention of parents and clinicians, we worry that the term “Facebook Depression,” might be more confusing than helpful. As child psychiatrists, what concerns us is that there is no scientific study of this diagnosis, nor are there criteria for how this diagnosis is made. This might be confusing for parents and clinicians who see it billed in this report with the same level of importance as sexting, cyberbullying, and other behaviors that we know to be detrimental to children.

Additionally, the term “Facebook Depression,” confuses the real meaning of the term depression. A diagnosis of “depression” should not be based on the amount of time one spends with a particular media. Certainly, a student who practices piano five hours a day and then develops symptoms of depression, does not have “piano depression.” While it may be true that the excessive use of social media may be a form of an “addiction” or other “disorder” provided that it is dysfunctional and disrupts social, academic, or recreational functioning, these behaviors have not yet been formally labeled as disorders because careful research and clarification of these behaviors has not yet been completed – a similar process is needed before “Facebook Depression” can be deemed a valid disorder.

Beresin and Gorrindo explicitly state they don’t believe Facebook can cause depression (phew)! However, they do offer five important tips to parents of screen-addicted teens, and to pediatricians:

1. For pediatricians, we recommend that they incorporate an assessment of a teens “media diet” into all their check-up visits with teens. A Media Inventory should be a core part of all medical histories for children, adolescents and adults.

2. For parents, we agree with the AAP recommendation that they should be discussing internet use with their kids. However, we feel that these discussions should start long before their children are teens. Parents should begin talking to kids about computer use as early as possible. In fact, parents should be talking with their kids about relationships, risky behavior and other important social issues from early childhood – setting a tone early on that parents are open to discussion about confusing and difficult topics. Continue reading

Daily Rounds: Caritas Hearing Today; Motherhood Triggers Brain Growth; Lifestyle Influences Genetics; The Oldest Galaxy Discovered: House Calls On Facebook

Cerberus has history of tough decisions – The Boston Globe “Over the past decade, it has shut down a Houston mortgage company and fired nearly 800 employees, after first canceling their health insurance. It took a bottling company public without disclosing that it had just lost a major client, then let go hundreds of workers. And it shuttered a Wisconsin paper mill three years after entering the paper business…This morning, at a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court hearing, Caritas and Cerberus face the final hurdle in an approval process that began in the spring.” (Boston Globe)

The real 'mommy brain': New mothers’ grew “Motherhood may actually cause the brain to grow, not turn it into mush, as some have claimed. Exploratory research published by the American Psychological Association found that the brains of new mothers bulked up in areas linked to motivation and behavior, and that mothers who gushed the most about their babies showed the greatest growth in key parts of the mid-brain.” (EurekAlert)

Lifestyle Factors May Alter Genetic Traits, Study Finds | WBUR & NPR“Morris set up an experiment with lab rats to see if the biological consequences of a father overeating could somehow get passed on to his daughters.” Incredibly, it seems, they could. When the researcher looked specifically at the daughters, he found that “all of them had a similar genetic makeup, but those with overweight fathers had some of the same problems that their dads did. They weren't overweight, but their production of insulin was impaired. The finding, says Andy Feinberg, at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, is "a way it's saying the metabolic sins of the father can be visited on the daughters.” (WBUR | 90.9 FM)

Astronomers Say They've Found Oldest Galaxy So Far – NYTimes.com “Hidden in a Hubble Space Telescope photo released earlier this year is a small smudge of light that European astronomers now calculate is a galaxy from 13.1 billion years ago. That's a time when the universe was very young, just shy of 600 million years old. That would make it the earliest and most distant galaxy seen so far.” (The New York Times)

Nurse spots cancer on Facebook picture | News | Nursing Times (nursingtimes.net) “Nurse Nicola Sharp…was browsing through friend Michele Freeman’s profile when she saw a flash photo of Michele’s daughter Grace. It showed the two-year-old with a white pupil in her left eye instead of the usual “red eye” effect. Ms. Sharp knew this could indicate an eye tumour and, as a result, the child was diagnosed and treated for retinoblastoma.