Tweeting is great, right? You bet it is. There’s a reason we have Tweetosystem over there; we’re addicted. That may sound a little extreme (and maybe it is, at least in our cases) but a new study suggests that Twitter and social media addiction isn’t quite as ludicrous as it sounds. A recent experiment headed by Wilhelm Hofmann of Chicago University’s Booth Business School shows that urges to tweet are extremely hard to resist, harder to resist than urges to drink, or smoke, for example.
The study involved 205 people between the ages of 18 and 85 in the German city of Würtzburg. The participants were given Blackberrys and questioned seven times over the course of a 14 hour day, for seven consecutive days, about their desires. They were to report any desire they were currently experiencing, any desire they’d experienced in the past 30 minutes, the intensity of any desires, whether the desires conflicted with any others, and whether or not they resisted it. Over the course of the study 10,558 responses and 7,827 desires were reported.
Of these responses, researchers found that desires to use social media, like Twitter, were the least-resisted desires. This means that when someone had the urge to Tweet, they almost always did it. Similarly, desires to work were very rarely resisted, although I must say I feel like the use of the term “desire” here complicates matters a little because who ever desires to work? One typically needs to work, but the results still stand. Reported desires to smoke, drink, or engage in sexual activity, on the other hand, were less frequently reported and more frequently rebuffed. The full study is due to be published in upcoming issue of Psychological Science.
Now does this mean Twitter is more addictive than smoking or drinking? Not neccessarily, for a few reasons. First, this is all self-reported so the results depend on how much you feel like you can trust any of the people involved in the study. After all, that’s quite the laundry list of information they were asked to give per desire. Second, tweeting — or any other social media interaction for that matter — has a significantly lower cost than a lot of other urges. You wanna have a smoke? You might get cancer or you have to shell out for a pack. You want to have a drink? You have to drive later. You want to have your mistress’ husband killed? Good hitmen are hard to find. Tweeting, however, has an extremely low per-instance cost: A few seconds of your time.
Granted, that low per-instance cost can really add up if you start feeling and succumbing to that urge all the time, and that’s probably the most dangerous part of social media “addiction.” It’s a low cost (free, really), low consequence behavior that’s easy to indulge in increasing quantity. Kind of like smoking, for people in the 30’s and 40’s anyways. Hopefully we won’t find out later that social media causes cancer or something. I probably smoke at least a pack of tweets a day.
- “Internet addiction” actually correlates with brain structure
- South Korea has an Internet addiction clinic
- People with high IQ are more likely to use drugs later in life, Twitter too maybe?