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Excessive social media use comparable to drug addiction

Excessive social media use has negative consequences that include the kind of risky decision-making associated with drug and gambling addicts, new research shows.

Researchers at Michigan State University had 71 study participants take a survey gauging their Facebook dependence; it included questions about users’ feelings when unable to access the website, the influence Facebook has had on a user’s job or education, and attempts to quit.

Next, participants took the Iowa Gambling Task, which measures decision-making. Those who use social media excessively exhibited the worst choices in the task. Those who use social media less made better choices.
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The results were complementary to results with substance abusers, per MSU. People who abuse opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, among others – have similar outcomes on the Iowa Gambling Task, researchers say, showing the same deficiency in decision-making.

“I believe that social media has tremendous benefits for individuals, but there’s also a dark side when people can’t pull themselves away,” Dar Meshi, the study’s lead author and MSU professor, said in a news release on the study. “We need to better understand this drive so we can determine if excessive social media use should be considered an addiction.”

As more people spend more time on social platforms, Meshi said researchers hope the study’s findings encourage overuse of social media to be taken seriously.

Per Statista, about 77 percent of the U.S. population uses social media, and the average amount of time spent daily on social media was 135 minutes in 2017.

“How to cut back on social media” has more than twice the Google search results as “how to cut back on sugar.” Reducing social media use has been shown to decrease loneliness and symptoms of depression.

Researchers at Texas State University recently found major depressive disorder is more likely for Millennials who exhibit negative social media behaviors — which include comparing themselves to others and irritation at being tagged in unflattering photos — or those addicted to social media.

Facebook use and social comparisons might even influence our perceptions of our physical health, according to a new U.K. study.

Nonetheless, social media has a strong hold on users. Another recent study involving a Michigan State University professor that aimed to assess Facebook’s value discovered that users would need an average of more than $1,000 to cut themselves off for a year.

Facebook has had a challenging 12 months, from sharing users’ data without their knowledge to struggling to control the spread of political propaganda and fake news, CNBC reports.

Caitlin Mullen, Bizwomen contributor