Study Links Social Media Addicts, Substance Abusers

Addicted to social media? That’s not just an expression anymore. Scientists have found a connection between excessive social media use and behavior associated with substance abuse.

Researchers at Michigan State University and Monash University in Australia found that heavy social media users tended to make riskier decisions usually seen in drug addicts.

“Around one-third of humans on the planet are using social media, and some of these people are displaying maladaptive, excessive use of these sites,” said Dar Meshi, the study’s lead author and assistant professor at Michigan State University in the U.S.

“Our findings will hopefully motivate the field to take social media overuse seriously,” Meshi said.

Meshi and his team had 71 participants take the Iowa Gambling Task, which is used to measure decision-making abilities in substance abusers and non-abusers.

“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,” Meshi said.

At the end of the exercise, Meshi and his team found that heavy social media users took greater risks even while knowing that they came with negative consequences, the same way drug addicts do.

The participants also reported that they constantly think about the platforms when not using them and that they lose sleep because of their online activities.

“I believe that social media has tremendous benefits for individuals, but there’s also a dark side when people can’t pull themselves away,” Meshi said. “We need to better understand this drive, so we can determine if excessive social media use should be considered an addiction.”

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