Poor decision-making is a trait often associated with drug addicts and problem gamblers, but what about people who overuse social media? New research from Michigan State University shows a link between social media use and impaired risky decision-making, which is typically deficient in substance abuse.
“About one-third of humans on the planet use social media, and some of those people display excessive and inappropriate use of these sites,” said Dar Meshi, lead author and assistant professor at MSU. “We hope our findings will motivate the field to take the overuse of social media seriously.”
The findings, published in the Behavioral Addictions Diaryare the first to examine the relationship between social media use and risky decision-making abilities.
“Decision-making is often compromised in people with substance use disorders. They sometimes fail to learn from their mistakes and continue down a path of negative outcomes,” Meshi said. “But no one had previously examined this behavior in relation to excessive social media users, so we investigated this possible parallel between excessive social media users and drug addicts. Although we did not test the cause poor decision-making, we tested for its correlation with problematic social media use.”
Meshi and his co-authors asked 71 participants to complete a survey measuring their psychological dependence on Facebook, similar to addiction. Survey questions focused on users’ concern with the platform, their feelings when they couldn’t use it, quit attempts, and the impact Facebook had on their work or lives. studies.
The researchers then asked the participants to do the Iowa Gambling Task, a common exercise used by psychologists to measure decision-making. To carry out the task, users identify the outcome patterns in card games to choose the best possible game.
Meshi and his colleagues found that at the end of the game task, the less successful people were in choosing from bad decks, the more excessive their use of social media was. The more successful they were in the task, the less they used social media. This result is complementary to the results with drug addicts. People who abuse opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, among others, achieve similar results in the Iowa Gambling Task, showing the same impairment in decision-making.
“With so many people around the world using social media, it’s critical for us to understand their usage,” Meshi said. “I believe that social media has enormous benefits for individuals, but there is also a dark side when people cannot opt out. We need to better understand this motivation so that we can determine whether excessive media use should be seen as an addiction.”
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