Twitter Might Be More Addictive Than Alcohol Or Sex

How well can you resist your desires? Apparently, if they include checking your @mentions and sending out profound thoughts in 140 characters or less, they’re extremely hard to resist.

A new study has been released that suggests that Twitter, email and other online communication is more addictive than cigarettes, alcohol or sex.

Conducted by researchers at the Chicago University’s Booth Business School, this experiment gave BlackBerries to 205 people between the ages of 18 and 35 to test their willpower.

The researchers sent the participants a message seven times every day for a week, asking them whether they had a desire at that particular moment, or within the last 30 minutes.

The participants were then to respond with the type of desire, the strength of desire, whether it conflicted with another desire, and whether or not they gave into it.

All-in-all, the researchers collected 10,558 responses and recorded 7,827 “desire episodes” from them.

The desire that was the toughest for the test subjects to resist was media – including social media.

The Guardian spoke to the study’s lead researcher, Wilhelm Hofmann, who explained why accessing Twitter and Facebook might be one of the hardest things to resist in today’s modern world:

“Desires for media may be comparatively harder to resist because of their high availability and also because it feels like it does not ‘cost much’ to engage in these activities, even though one wants to resist.”

Of course, social media is more generally available throughout the day than many other desires like alcohol and sex, but it could be just as harmful for someone who has troubles socializing in the real world.

Here are some other interesting findings from the study, which will soon be published in the Journal of Psychological Science:

  • As the day wore on, desires became harder to resist
  • Tobacco, alcohol and coffee elicited relatively weak desires, contrary to popular opinion about these substances
  • People were generally successful in resisting the urge to spend money
  • One of the most frequent desires was the desire to stop working, indicating that “workaholic” is perhaps a valid term for a large portion of the population

(Top image: Luis Louro via Shutterstock)

Publish date: February 8, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT