Research Article: The brave blue world: Facebook flow and Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD)

Date Published: July 26, 2018

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Julia Brailovskaia, Elke Rohmann, Hans-Werner Bierhoff, Jürgen Margraf, Antonio Scala.


The present study investigated the relationship between flow experienced when using Facebook (Facebook flow; i.e., experience of intensive enjoyment and pleasure generated by Facebook use due to which the Facebook activity is continued even at high costs of this behavior) and Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD). In a sample of 398 Facebook users (age: M (SD) = 33.01 (11.23), range: 18–64), the significant positive association between Facebook flow and FAD was positively moderated by the intensity of Facebook use. Exploratory factor analysis revealed that all six items assessing FAD loaded on the same factor as two items belonging to the subscale telepresence of Facebook flow. Therefore, the close link between Facebook flow and FAD may in particular result from the immersion in an attractive online world created by Facebook, where users escape to forget their everyday obligations and problems. Present results provide first evidence that Facebook flow may be an anteceded of FAD and indicate the mechanisms that may contribute to its development and maintenance. Practical applications for future studies and limitations of present results are discussed.

Partial Text

The membership in the social networking site (SNS) Facebook brings with it many advantages (e.g., efficient communication, self-promotion, and entertainment), but may also generate some disadvantages. With respect to potential disadvantages of Facebook use, Andreassen et al. [1] investigated the so-called Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD). They defined FAD as a subtype of behavior addictions that includes six significant characteristics, i.e., salience (i.e., permanent thinking of the SNS Facebook), tolerance (i.e., increasing amounts of Facebook use are required to achieve previous level of positive effect), mood modification (i.e., mood improvement by Facebook use), relapse (i.e., reverting to earlier use pattern after ineffective attempts to reduce Facebook use), withdrawal symptoms (i.e., becoming nervous without Facebook use), and conflict (i.e., interpersonal problems caused by intensive Facebook use). Brailovskaia and Margraf [2] demonstrated a significant increase in the number of users, who reached the critical FAD cutoff score, during a one-year period. FAD was found to be positively related to male gender, the personality traits extraversion, neuroticism and narcissism, as well as circadian rhythm (late bedtimes and rising times on weekdays and weekend). Its links to the variables age, the traits agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness, as well as physical activity were negative [2–5]. Furthermore, a positive relationship was found between FAD and the mental health variables insomnia, depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms [2, 6–8]. Additionally, recent studies reported social media addiction, which includes addictive Facebook use, to be significantly linked to different attachment styles [9] (i.e., positive: both anxious and avoidant attachment style; negative: secure attachment style), and identity styles [10] (i.e., positive: both informational and diffuse-avoidant style; negative: normative style) [11, 12]. Considering these results, the question arises which factors contribute to the development and maintenance of FAD.

The critical cutoff score of FAD was reached by 31 (7.8%) participants following the polythetic scoring and by 15 (3.8%) participants following the monothetic scoring. Descriptive statistics of the investigated variables are shown in Table 2.

The present study investigated the link between flow experienced on the SNS Facebook and FAD. In line with earlier studies that described flow experience and addictive media use to be positively interrelated [15, 18, 19], current findings revealed a significant positive association between Facebook flow and FAD (confirming Hypothesis 1). Note, that the link was considerably strong as the common variance between both variables was 43.6%. Also, each subscale of Facebook flow was significantly positively related to FAD. However, in contrast to our expectations that rested on previous results (e.g., [18]), the subscales enjoyment and time-distortion of Facebook flow did not show the strongest link with FAD. The link with the scale “enjoyment” was the weakest one of the five flow subscales (contradicting Hypothesis 2). In comparison, the highest correlation emerged between FAD and the subscale “telepresence” (effect size of the correlation differences Cohen’s q ranges from .31 to .60; cf., [32]). In particular the FAD item “withdrawal” was closely linked to this subscale. Furthermore, all six items assessing FAD loaded on the same factor as two items of the scale “telepresence”.