Social media platforms, such as Facebook, provide up-to-date, accessible and personalized communication, yet they also have the potential to become addictive. Mihaylo Professor Ofir Turel discusses how to use social media constructively.
A 2012 survey of CSUF students conducted by Mihaylo Professor Ofir Turel revealed a campus community well-connected to social media platforms such as Facebook. Survey participants reported that they added an average of 7.53 Facebook friends per week, added two updates per day to their Facebook pages and spent an average of 1.89 hours per day on Facebook.
“Any application that provides variable and strong rewards and is regularly accessible is potentially addictive,” says Turel, an information systems and decision sciences professor. “With social media, you never know what friends have posted, so it encourages regular use.” However, he notes that the accessibility and rewards of social media use do not necessarily equate to addictive behaviors, as only a certain percentage of individuals are susceptible to addiction-like symptoms.
While there is no set criteria for what constitutes excessive or addictive use of social media platforms, Turel explains that use that severely interferes with other important priorities, such as school or work, is a warning sign of addiction. “If you use social media even though you know you need to be studying for an exam, the behavior is becoming unhealthy,” he says.
For those that do develop addictive symptoms, there can be serious negative results. “Such ‘addictions’ can result in academic failure, sleep deprivations, social isolation, health issues and many other impairments for adolescents and young adults; they can also result in reduced work performance and marital discord and separation for adults,” Turel and four other professors wrote in the 2014 study, Examination of Neural Systems Sub-serving Facebook ‘Addiction’. The study noted that research generally shows that between 0.7% and 11% of the population are strongly impacted by Internet-based addictive tendencies.
Turel notes that professional social networks, such as LinkedIn, and blogs generally do not result in addictive behaviors. “This is because the amount and variability of rewards are smaller, unlike the strong and unexpected social rewards users receive on networks such as Facebook,” he says.
Read Turel’s studies on technology addiction and information technology in the workplace here.