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Is social media addictive?

Feb 6, 2012 4:50pm
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(NECN: Brian Burnell) - Is this habit harder to resist than this one?  Or this?  

A Chicago University study suggests it just might be.  That social media is harder to stay away from than nicotine or alcohol.  Think about how often you interrupt a live conversation with someone to check a text or email on your smart phone.  Could you resist that ring tone if you had to?

"It certainly is a habit.  It's a bad habit.  There is some question whether it rises to the level of an addiction," said Dr. Lawrence Haber with the Institute of Living.

Here's what they did: They got over 200 people between the ages of 18 and 85. They told them no social media for two solid weeks.  No Facebook, no Twitter, no email and no texting.  And then they check with them several times a day.

How were they feeling?  Did they feel like sending an email?  Respond to a text?  They got more than 10,000, and almost 8,000 of them said, ‘Yeah, I'm Jonesin.'"

Smoking a cigarette or taking a drink releases dopamine into the brain and that feels good.  Addicts have trouble resisting the behavior that feels good.  

"To the affect that you get pleasure from having your email responded to, that somebody tweeted you back or like your Facebook posting that may give you pleasure.  May, in fact, activate the dopamine system so in that sense it may very well be what we could call a true addiction," said Dr. Haber.

People we asked about it said they thought it probably affected the young more than the old.

Do you think its generational to a certain extent?  

“I think so, yes, although I do know people my age that are pretty tied into it as well,” said Lillian Millette of Columbia, Conn.

And some pointed out one danger of social media addiction: We just don't talk anymore.

"I'm a person who went to college in the 70's and we were actually forced to talk to people personally.  Forced to pick up the phone.  Forced to as we're conversing, face to face,” said Rich Czaplinski of Meriden, Conn. “We don't do that anymore.  Everything is done via an email." 
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