Excessive use of social media platforms like Facebook can make its users take decisions as bad as drug addicts tend to do, a new study suggests.
“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,” said lead author of the study Dar Meshi, Assistant Professor at Michigan State University in the US.
“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,” Meshi added.
For the study, published in the Journal of Behavior Addictions, the researchers had 71 participants take a survey that measured their psychological dependence on Facebook, similar to addiction.
Questions on the survey asked about users’ preoccupation with the platform, their feelings when unable to use it, attempts to quit and the impact that Facebook has had on their job or studies.
The researchers then had the participants do the Iowa Gambling Task, a common exercise used by psychologists to measure decision-making.
To successfully complete the task, users identify outcome patterns in decks of cards to choose the best possible deck.
Meshi and his colleagues found that by the end of the gambling task, the worse people performed by choosing from bad decks, the more excessive their social media use.
The better they did in the task, the less their social media use.
People who abuse opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, among others – have similar outcomes on the Iowa Gambling Task, thus showing the same deficiency in decision-making, the study said.