EU must act to halt Facebook addiction, says MEP
Published 31/05/2010 | 05:00
FORGET Greece's spiralling financial woes or the demise of the euro -- one Irish MEP has spotted a far more pressing concern for Europe to tackle.
Labour MEP Nessa Childers yesterday called for popular social networking site Facebook to come under increased regulation by the EU.
She believes the website can become a "clear and present threat to the mental health of millions of European citizens" and that new laws should be put in place to protect Facebook users from becoming addicted.
In a lengthy 430-word statement, she said: "Visiting your Facebook page frequently causes what psychologists refer to as 'intermittent reinforcement'. Messages and invites reward you with an unpredictable high, much like gambling.
"That anticipation can get dangerously addictive. Visiting Facebook rewards you with virtual connections. These connections then expand to fill an increasingly empty internal world, creating a vicious circle.
"We can present on Facebook an unreal and flawless version of ourselves. Many people access their Facebook page once or twice a week. However, for others it has turned into a compulsion."
The MEP, who trained as a psychotherapist and was elected from the Leinster constituency to the European parliament in June last year, added that, for many, escaping to the "virtual world" of social networking sites offers a way of escaping the "banalities" of real life.
"Action is needed at international level from the EU to properly take on the disturbing trend of addiction to sites such as Facebook, which are responsible for all sorts of problematic behaviour."
Ms Childers's call comes as the site last week announced plans to simplify its privacy settings. The company's head said the changes would make it easier for users to control how much information they were sharing.