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Move over drug addiction, Facebook is overwhelming these days

IBTimes India 2019-01-11 14:05:49

A 3D-printed Facebook like button is seen in front of the Facebook logo, in this illustration taken October 25, 2017REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Last few decades have filled our news pages with stories of drug addicts, pathological gamblers who failed often in IQ tests or attributed with bad decision-making trait. But scientists now warn that the new addiction, hooked on to social media, especially Facebook or WhatsApp is leading to similar trait among the decision-makers.

Researchers from Michigan State University said the connection between social media use and impaired decision-making is very much there and it's similar to what is commonly deficient in substance addiction.

"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 Dar Meshi, lead author and assistant professor of Michigan State University. "Our findings will hopefully motivate the field to take social media overuse seriously."

The study, conducted in collaboration with Australia's Monash University, was the first of its kind to explore the link between social media use and risky decision-making capabilities, though it did not test for the cause of such trait. "Decision making is oftentimes compromised in individuals with substance use disorders. They sometimes fail to learn from their mistakes and continue down a path of negative outcomes," explains Meshi.

Meshi and his team conducted a survey on 71 participants, measuring their psychological dependence on Facebook, similar to addiction. It included questions 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 participants also did the Iowa Gambling Task, a common exercise used by psychologists to measure the level of decision-making capabilities. In this, users identify outcome patterns in decks of cards to choose the best possible deck.

After the gambling task, those who performed poor by choosing from bad decks happened to be those addicted to social media as well. Those who performed better have shown less inclination on social media use. There is a complementary nature in results with substance abusers, said researchers.

People who abuse opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, among others have shown similar results after the Iowa Gambling Task. "With so many people around the world using social media, it's critical for us to understand its use," Meshi said.

The findings are published in the Journal of Behavior Addictions.

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