Everyone is doing it: during dinner parties, at boring work meetings, even mid-conversation. And now new research shows why we can't resist a tweet: Twitter and Facebook may be as addictive as cigarettes and alcohol.
At the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, researchers outfitted 205 subjects with devices that allowed them to log their everyday desires – collecting about 8,000 reports altogether.
The study, to be published in the Psychological Science Journal, found that people longed most for sleep and sex during the day. But the toughest to resist were the urges to check social networking sites and get work done. In fact, lead author Wilhelm Hofmann told a recent conference that Twitter was harder to resist than desires for alcohol and cigarettes.
Of course, Twitter doesn't give us lung cancer, and it's usually right at our thumb tips all day long. But trying to fight it doesn't make us stronger: The more often you ignore temptation, says Dr. Hoffmann, the more likely you are to give in the next time. Our willpower weakens as the day goes on, he says.
Willpower is getting some renewed attention from researchers lately – and not just because we're increasingly addicted to alerting (subjecting) all our followers to what we ate for dinner. For instance, a recent study conducted in the Netherlands suggests that people who delayed their desire for a snack actually consumed less in the week ahead.
How this might translate into our endless appetite for social media is unclear. Trouble is, we'd have to stop checking for updates on #3WordsWomenHate and other need-to-know topics. And who has the strength for that?
If you've kicked your addiction to social media, how did you do it?