Facebook, Twitter more addictive than alcohol, tobacco

Facebook, Twitter more addictive than alcohol, tobacco

Summary: What's more addicting than alcohol, tobacco, and coffee? Apparently, your desire to check social networks and to stay employed trumps all else, including urges to sleep and have sex.

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People's daily desires make it harder to resist the urge to check social networks like Facebook and Twitter for updates than to turn down an alcoholic drink or a cigarette. Sleep and sex were the two things people most longed for during the day, but the urges to keep on top of social networks and work were the hardest to resist.

Researchers from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business fitted 205 participants between the ages of 18 and 85 with BlackBerry devices in and around the German city of Würtzburg. Seven times a day over 14 hours for seven consecutive days, the participants were asked to message whether they were experiencing a desire at that moment or had experienced one within the last 30 minutes, what type it was, the strength of it, whether it conflicted with other desires, and whether they resisted or went along with it. 10,558 responses and 7,827 "desire episodes" were reported.

Alcohol, tobacco, and coffee prompted much lower levels of desire despite their addictive properties. Furthermore, people were relatively successful at resisting sports inclinations, sexual urges, and spending impulses. Resisting the desire to work (when it conflicts with other goals such as socialising or leisure activities), which was the hardest along with checking social networks, may be difficult because your job defines your identity, dictates many aspects of your life, and invokes penalties if important duties are not completed.

"Modern life is a welter of assorted desires marked by frequent conflict and resistance, the latter with uneven success," Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science Wilhelm Hofmann told The Guardian. The fact sleep and leisure were the most problematic desires suggests "pervasive tension between natural inclinations to rest and relax and the multitude of work and other obligations. 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. With cigarettes and alcohol there are more costs – long-term as well as monetary – and the opportunity may not always be the right one. So, even though giving in to media desires is certainly less consequential, the frequent use may still 'steal' a lot of people's time."

Throughout the day your willpower decreases. The researchers found that resisting a particular urge frequently or recently increases the chance of caving in the next time. This is because our constant efforts to resist temptation sap our willpower, which makes cravings even stronger.

The full results of the study will be published later this month in the journal Psychological Science.

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Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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14 comments
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  • RE: Facebook, Twitter more addictive than alcohol, tobacco

    Notice Google is not in this category and some of you people wonder why facebook value is so high!
    Hasam1991
    • Because no one cares about Google?

      @Hasam1991

      :|
      Tim Cook
  • RE: Facebook, Twitter more addictive than alcohol, tobacco

    What is the problem????? are people who operate other systems getting upset of Facebook's popularity, so there is a chance that there will be 1billion users of Facebook by July 2012 so what, it proves that Facebook works and gives people what they want, so I suggest that the others take a leaf out of the way that Facebook operates and get a life.
    p.jankowski@...
    • RE: Facebook, Twitter more addictive than alcohol, tobacco

      @p.jankowski@... The problem is, it hurts worker productivity if they are always on Facebook instead of doing their jobs.
      tbuccelli
      • RE: Facebook, Twitter more addictive than alcohol, tobacco

        @tbuccelli
        Many employers allow it. So what-cha gonna do?

        I personally don't use it or have an account, but that's my choice
        ScorpioBlue
  • RE: Facebook, Twitter more addictive than alcohol, tobacco

    [i]....than to turn down an alcoholic drink or a cigarette. Sleep and sex were the two things people most longed for during the day[/i]

    Sounds like a dirty minded American only stuff, doesn't fit majority of the other nations. No wonder their government is corrupt minded enough to think they can censor the internet; all these dirty minded stuff has killed their grey cells :p
    MrElectrifyer
    • Try Germans

      @MrElectrifyer

      Or did you miss where the responses were from German citizens (city of W??rtzburg), or that the respondents were asked what their "desires" were rather than being prompted?
      spdragoo@...
  • RE: Facebook, Twitter more addictive than alcohol, tobacco

    Lol, it may be more addictive qualitatively, but as a recovering addict, I can assure you (in my own experience), that the results and consequences between the two are VERY different. I never went bankrupt or got arrested for Facebook use.
    James Keenan
    • RE: Facebook, Twitter more addictive than alcohol, tobacco

      Not yet anyway James LOL Actually someone in England got the jail recently for stalking a female on Facebook!
      fettes5@...
  • RE: Facebook, Twitter more addictive than alcohol, tobacco

    I'll testify to that. i've been online now for around 5 hrs solid and that's on a good day. bad day's account for around 8 hrs usage. i don't apologise for it because i am genuinely researching money making ideas via websites,newsgroups,forums etc.
    fettes5@...
  • ZDNet discover Earth moves around Sun

    ZDNet is really on top of things, piercing the veil of the blindly obvious to go where ordinary, observant people went years ago.
    draku.zeos
  • RE: Facebook, Twitter more addictive than alcohol, tobacco

    I used to do Facebook but dumped it because it WAS such a waste of time.
    I'd go back to it if it was as satisfying as single malt scotch. But few things are. . .okay maybe sex and really great music.
    mike_flood
  • RE: Facebook, Twitter more addictive than alcohol, tobacco

    I am constantly online...I didn't have a facebook account until just recently as I was concerned about all the negative feedback I've heard about; however, I can completely understand the addiction that goes along with the Facebooks and twitters of the world. I find myself checking my email, then moving onto my social media sites to see the activity and who has contacted me...it's all pretty exciting and so much so that I have made it my main goal to learn more about whether or not social media is directly related to SEO...it's pretty interesting. http://trafficblogcafe.com/want-more-facebook-likes/
    tbc41
  • RE: Facebook, Twitter more addictive than alcohol, tobacco

    I am constantly online...I didn't have a facebook account until just recently as I was concerned about all the negative feedback I've heard about; however, I can completely understand the addiction that goes along with the Facebooks and twitters of the world. I find myself checking my email, then moving onto my social media sites to see the activity and who has contacted me...it's all pretty exciting and so much so that I have made it my main goal to learn more about whether or not social media is directly related to SEO...it's pretty interesting. http://trafficblogcafe.com/want-more-facebook-likes/
    tbc41