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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new study says that excessive social media usage is comparable to drug addiction. Research from Michigan State University shows a connection between social media usage and bad decision-making, a common trait in gamblers and drug addicts, the study says.
“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,” said Dar Meshi, lead author and assistant professor at MSU. “But no one previously looked at this behavior as it relates to excessive social media users, so we investigated this possible parallel between excessive social media users and substance abusers. While we didn’t test for the cause of poor decision-making, we tested for its correlation with problematic social media use.”
Seventy-one participants were asked to take a survey on their psychological dependence on Facebook. Questions centered around the subjects’ feelings when unable to use Facebook, their attempts to quit the site and the impact that Facebook has had on their job performance.
Participants then were subjected to a common gambling exercise used by psychologists to measure decision-making. Participants were tasked with identifying “outcome patterns in decks of cards to choose the best possible deck.”
Results showed that the worse people performed in the test, the more they used social media. The subjects who did better in the test, were less dependent on social media.
Those findings aligned similarly with drug addicts.
“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 found.
“With so many people around the world using social media, it’s critical for us to understand its use,” Meshi said. “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.”
Published in the Journal of Behavior Addictions, the findings are the first to examine the relationship between social media usage and decision-making.