According to scientists, social media is the new crack. Forget vodka, fast food and even a bit of the other, what we really can’t resist is a hard, fast, Facebook binge. And thanks to smartphones, tablets and the other niceties provided by this ultra-immediate digital age, we can, and do, practically IV the stuff throughout the day.
This recent edition of tech-addiction theory comes courtesy of a study by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, who gave participants a smartphone and asked them to rate their desires to do a list of activities every 30 minutes. Alongside rating impulses to smoke, get sexy, drink and sleep, they were asked to rate their desire to hit social networks using phrases like “strong” and “irresistible” and low and behold, the temptation to get down and dirty by taking a trip to Facebook was the most difficult to resist. It’s not the first time this particular study has made the headlines, but it’s being published in the journal Psychological Science this month and is therefore getting another airing.
Lead author on the study, Wilhem Hofmann, pointed out the ready availability of a social media hit was probably to blame for the apparent rising addiction. He said: “Desires for media may be comparatively harder to resist because of their high availability and also because it feels like it does not cost much to engage in these activities, even though one wants to resist.”
I’d certainly question whether the online study conducted in Germany might have come up with some different results if they’d handed out a packet of cigarettes, some Maltesers and a bottle of Rioja along with the Blackberrys they dispensed to the participants, but I can see where the guy is coming from.
Personally, I was a late adopter to Facebook, I’m of the Myspace generation and got more than a tad nostalgic reading Darren Navier’s recent post on its second coming. I don’t consider myself too much of a Facebook addict, in fact, I can happily go days without logging on. I’m far more likely to check one of my two Twitter accounts – one for work interests and freelance journo stuff (fayBerg) – the other dedicated to all things food for my food blog (foodfables). I’d say I spend around fourteen hours each week across all social networks, but consider it part of my role to keep up to date on industry news and issues, which happen to be easy to review via Twitter. Ultimately, I enjoy using Twitter, but my desire to use it has never quite met the dizzying heights of the intense diet coke craving myself and colleague Rebecca Edwards seem to experience daily from 11.30am onwards. I could totally quit if I wanted to.
How about yourself? Do you find yourself logging into Facebook before you’ve even unscrewed the cap of your Sainsbury’s Pinot Grigio when you settle down to an evening on the sofa? If you work in digital media, we’d love to hear about your social media use and not just to figure out whether it’s going to beat bath salts to the most media mentioned drug of the year! In tandem with Leeds Digital Festival 2012 we are conducting our own survey of social media use by digital professionals. Do you spend more time on Twitter than you do sleeping? Do you have a split social media personality? Complete the survey here and we’ll be able to tell you whether you need to go into social media rehab or just happen to be a forward-thinking media professional (ahem).