What do Facebook, tobacco and alcohol all have in common? According to a study done by Chicago University’s Booth Business School, they are all addictive. In fact, the study suggests that social media is harder to resist than a cigarette or drink.
The study, which involved a system of signaling participants in their normal environment outside of a laboratory, included 205 participants between the ages of 18 and 85 in and around Wurzburg, Germany. Whenever a participant was signaled they were supposed to send a message that included any urges or desires they were having at the moment and in the past half hour. As it turned out, desires for media were reported more often than desires for a smoke or a drink.
Kassi Miller, a BYU communications student from Payson, is a self-declared social media addict.
“I wasn’t allowed to have a Facebook or MySpace when I was in high school,” she said. “As soon as I graduated, I signed up for Facebook and I’ve been hooked ever since.”
[pullquote]”I wasn’t allowed to have a Facebook or MySpace when I was in high school. As soon as I graduated, I signed up for Facebook and I’ve been hooked ever since.”[/pullquote]
“These are mostly for my studies, though,” she said. “I’m studying public relations and we work with social media sites a lot to learn how to use them for marketing and relations.”
Like many college students, when it comes to leisure time Miller prefers Facebook. She usually has Facebook open whenever she’s at her computer. She even admits to getting on during class and work.
“It’s not like I’m constantly watching my feed the entire time it’s open on my computer,” Miller said. “If I’m doing something else I usually won’t even pay attention to it unless I get a notification or message.”
Miller has participated in a popular trend among BYU students by taking several “Facebook Fasts” in an attempt to moderate her time in the world of social media.
“I don’t think I am a total addict,” she said. “I don’t have a come-apart when the Internet is down. I’m annoyed, but I don’t totally lose it.”
Erin Simmons, a BYU communication disorders major from Laguna Niguel, Calif., usually takes “Facebook Fasts” during finals week. She has a roommate change her password to ensure she doesn’t waste time that could be spent studying. Simmons also spent the last month of her summer break “fasting” from Facebook.
“I decided to dedicate that time entirely to my family and friends back home,” she said. “It felt really good and reminded me that there are more wholesome things I could be doing.”
“I wouldn’t say that I am addicted, but I do feel like I spend more time on Facebook than I should,” Simmons said. “I definitely wouldn’t say that I compare myself to an alcoholic or chain smoker.”
Jordyn Darling, a BYU family and consumer science education major from Moses Lake, Wash., does not believe that you can compare an addiction to social media with an addiction to alcohol. With a brother and an aunt who struggle with this disease, Darling has been affected by alcoholism directly.
“It destroys you inside,” she said, “even if you are just watching a loved one struggle with it, not the person addicted.”
According to Darling, the effects of cutting yourself off from social media is not the same when an alcoholic cuts themselves off from alcohol.
“When my aunt goes off of alcohol cold turkey, she is a different person,” she said. “She gets mean and manipulative. I don’t think anyone would suffer from the same symptoms if their Twitter account was deleted.”
Simmons agrees with the idea that social media can be addictive.
“You can get addicted to anything — social media, working out, shopping,” Simmons said. “It doesn’t have to be alcohol or a drug.”
According to Simmons, the trick is simply to moderate yourself in all things.
“I would recommend fasting from Facebook,” she said. “I would recommend fasting from anything you start to feel dependent on.”