Social networking services like Facebook or Twitter may be harder for some people to resist than cigarettes or alcohol, according to a study that's set to be published in Psychological Science.
For the study, University of Chicago researchers used BlackBerry smartphones to measure how often 205 people succumbed to their social media cravings or other vices. Participants in the weeklong study were polled seven times daily and asked whether they experienced a desire within the last 30 minutes, as well as whether they had resisted. They also were asked to rate the desire on a scale from "mild" to "irresistible." Overall, there were 10,558 responses and 7,827 instances of desire reported.
The researchers found that the highest self-control failure rates were associated with social media, while participants had more success resisting desires to play sports or spend money.
"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," says lead researcher Wilhelm Hofmann. "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" (Meikle, Guardian, 2/3; Epstein, Fox News, 2/6).