Monday, February 2, 2015

Is Your Social Networking Feed an Addiction?

Over at Live Science "A new study found that the brains of people who report compulsive urges to use social networking sites show some brain patterns similar to those found in drug addicts." Yikes, that's saying something.

One of the problems seems to be that we all love the positive reinforcement we get from social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Tumblr. Another may be that most people don't see social networking as a harmful addiction. After all it's not like huffing cocaine or mainlining heroin.

But are our beliefs true? There's no harm? What about body image? Seriously, who posts a picture when they look like something a dog just vomited on the floor? We see fabulous pics of our fabulous looking friends doing fabulous things. How does that affect our self-image? And what about being left out when your friends post party pics? There's even an an acronym for that--FOMO (fear of missing out) leaving one feeling depressed and alone.

Here's how researchers measured social networking addiction:
The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the participants' brains while they looked at a series of computer images — some Facebook logos, and others of neutral traffic signs. The students were told to either press or not press a button in response to each image.
The higher people scored on the Facebook addiction survey, the more likely they were to quickly hit the button when viewing Facebook images compared to neutral images. Similarly, the participants were more likely to mistakenly press the button when they saw a Facebook logo versus a neutral traffic sign. Essentially, the Facebook cues were much more potent triggers in people's brains than the traffic signs.
That means that, if you're driving on a street next to someone who has a compulsive relationship with Facebook, they are "going to respond faster to beeps from their cellphone than to street signs," one researched told Live Science. "That's the power of Facebook."
Sheesh, no wonder there are so many car wrecks. Are you hooked? Do you have to respond to those not-so-subtle dings that announce a post to your feed of choice? Can you avoid responding? Any advice for those that are hooked?

Not as bad as cocaine? Tell that to the person hospitalized by a texter on the freeway.