Tweeting and checking emails may seem harmless enough – it's cheap, not fattening and won’t lead you to a life of crime. However, according to researchers, social media is more addictive than alcohol and cigarettes.
Researchers have conducted an experiment to gauge the willpower of 205 adult participants in Würtzburg, Germany, checking in with participants via Blackberry seven times over 14 hours every day for a week.
Participants would respond saying whether they were currently experiencing a desire (or had done with in the last 30 minutes), what the desire was for, the strength of the desire and whether they resisted or not. Of the 10,558 participants 7,827 experienced desire at some point.
The study noted that as the day progressed participants found it more difficult to resist social media use, while remaining in control of alcohol or tobacco cravings.
The research team was headed by Chicago University’s Booth Business School and included academics from Florida State University and Minnesota University.
"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,” said study leader Wilhelm Hofman.
This is the first study of its kind to monitor people in a non-laboratory environment. The results will soon be published in the journal Psychological Science.