Most of us and our social media use can be at best described as habitual.
Researchers at Michigan State University conducted a new study which was published in the Journal of Behavioural Addictions. The study found a connection between excessive social media use and risky decision making, a problem commonly associated with substance abuse.
Dr. Dar Meshi from Michigan State University and lead researcher said, “Around one-third of humans on the planet are using social media, and some of these people are displaying maladaptive, excessive use of these sites.” “Our findings will hopefully motivate the field to take social media overuse seriously.”
Dr. Meshi’s team asked 71 participants to take part in a survey designed to measure their psychological dependency on Facebook, using The Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale. The study was used to analyze several things including their general feelings towards social media platforms and any attempts they have made to stop using such platforms. Feelings on not being able to use it and what impact their social media use was having on their career or education.
The participants were then asked to take part in the Iowa Gambling Task. A method used widely by psychologists to assess decision-making and risky behavior.
The task involves getting the participants to identify outcome patterns in decks of cards to win the money. Interestingly, the people who used social media the most made the worse choices, while those who spent less time on Facebook made better decisions. Drug abusers mirror similar poor decision-making outcomes in the gambling task.
“Decision-making is oftentimes compromised in individuals with substance use disorders,” said Dar Meshi. “They sometimes fail to learn from their mistakes and continue down a path of negative outcomes. But no one previously looked at this behavior as it relates to excessive social media users, so we investigated this possible parallel between excessive social media users and substance abusers. While we didn’t test for the cause of poor decision-making, we tested for its correlation with problematic social media use.”
He also stated “I believe that social media has tremendous benefits for individuals, but there’s also a dark side when people can’t pull themselves away. We need to better understand this drive so we can determine if excessive social media use should be considered an addiction.”