Social networking sites have revolutionized the dynamics of inter-personal relationships. Sites like facebook not only enable users to communicate and share with friends every aspect of their lives but are also an amazing tool to reconnect with long-lost contacts. However when facebook friends take the place of real family members and updating facebook status takes priority over real-life pleasures and responsibilities, you know that you have a problem at hand. If your partner shows signs of addiction to facebook, here are a few things you can do to address the situation.
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Log the hours
The first thing that your partner needs to do overcome his/her facebook addiction is to recognize that there is a problem. Most forms are Internet addiction are difficult to spot since the web is also an enormous minefield of information and a workplace for many. So how much Internet use is too much use? If you feel your partner is addicted to a particular site, he/she must be spending a major chunk of his/her internet time on that site. Start by totaling the hours your partner is spending on facebook or even online over a typical week and show him/her the results. If still in the early stages of the addiction, your partner may be able to recognize his/her obsession and successfully limit the time spent online in general and on facebook in particular.
Talk to your partner
Choose a suitable time and place and discuss with your partner the feelings of abandonment and loneliness that you feel as a result of your partner’s facebook addiction. The worst time to approach an Internet addict is when he or she is at the computer just like it makes no sense to argue with an alcoholic when he is drunk. Like any other fair confrontation on a difficult subject, set a time and place that is agreeable to both sides.
Decide what you want to say
Before you confront your partner over his/her facebook addiction, go over exactly what aspect of the obsession is troubling you most. Are you worried that your partner is having an online affair with a facebook contact or do you want him/her to limit the time spent at the site? Once you are clear about how you would like your partner change his/her online behavior, express your concerns as succinctly as possible. Don’t rant or whine about him/her ignoring you or not paying you attention. Rather be concrete and specific about what is in your heart and express the hurt that comes with not being able to spend time together, an empty sex life or the psychological isolation that you are feeling.
Set specific goals
While discussing your partner’s addiction to facebook, come up with suggestions on how he/she may be able to combat it. Suggest concrete steps like limiting the time spent on facebook to certain hours on weeknights and keeping the weekend free for the two of you. Or setting an alarm some distance away from the computer so that your partner has to get up and switch it off once the stipulated time of facebook use is over. Ask your partner to contribute specific steps and how he/she may best be able to cut down on the hours spent on facebook.
Use non-judgmental language
When you express your concerns over your partner’s Internet addiction, avoid being critical and accusing. This will only make him/her more defensive and not take the discussion anywhere. Instead keep the focus on your own feelings of loneliness and rejection. Use sentences beginning with “I” like “I wish we could go out more often” or “I feel hurt when you don’t want to make love anymore”. This way you can bring up the problem without directly blaming your partner.
If your partner responds to your concerns, make sure you listen fully and with respect. Try to suspend your own point of view for a few minutes and put yourself in your partner’s shoes. This does not mean that you are giving in to your partner’s obsession but only that you are open to what he/she is saying and trying to accept their reality without judging it.
Identify the trigger factor, if any
Go back to the time when your partner first started spending too many hours on facebook and see if was caused by any major changes in work or family schedules. Perhaps he/she got laid off at work and there was too much free time on his/her hands. Again a sudden illness or accident may have compelled your partner to stay indoors and he/she got hooked to the site for lack of things to do. If you think your partner’s facebook addiction was caused by such factors, try to get him/her more involved in real life situations. Hobbies, pets and enjoyable pursuits may be helpful in bringing your partner’s focus back to the real world and get more satisfaction here than from the online community.
Consider underlying problems
Online relationships, according to therapists, begin to replace real life relationships when the person is distressed or dissatisfied with his/her present emotional life. See if your partner’s addiction to facebook is a way of escaping from discord, unhappiness or even boredom in your relationship. If so, addressing the underlying issues in your relationship may be a useful starting point of combating his/her addiction to facebook.
Be prepared for a negative response
Like any other form of addiction, Internet addiction may also result in denial and defensiveness on the part of the addict. Your partner may insist that he/she does not have a problem or worse make it seem your fault. Addicts are usually good at changing the focus of the real issue by shifting the blame on to another person. So establish and maintain healthy boundaries and remain true to your needs.
Look at other options
If you are unable to reach across to your partner the first time, try again. You could write him/her a letter expressing your concerns or even send an email, thus underlining the fact that not all use of Internet is necessarily bad. If your partner continues to shut you out, it may be better to seek the help of a marital counselor or therapist.
Experts are divided over whether addiction to social networking websites like facebook, constitute a disorder in itself or is merely the symptom of more complex problem like depression or marital conflict. However the bottom-line is that when a person begins to be so obsessed with sending posts and updating status on Facebook that daily work and real life relationships are neglected it is time to look for help.