People get hooked on Facebook because it makes them feel good, according to new research.
The study suggests that clicking onto the website boosts wellbeing which in turn triggers social media cravings.
The combination simply makes a Facebook ‘fix’ too difficult to resist, according to the research.
Studies of frequent and less frequent users found even brief exposure to the logo – or a screenshot – caused a pleasurable response in the former.
That is because it’s a learned response – such as when children see misbehaviour gets attention or dogs realise going to the bathroom outside earns them a treat.
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Prof Eden said: “People are learning this reward feeling when they get to Facebook.
“What we show with this study is even with something as simple as the Facebook logo, seeing the Facebook wall of a friend or seeing anything associated with Facebook, is enough to bring that positive association back.”
Her finding follows a previous study that found the Mark Zuckerberg’s social network can have a similar affect on the brain to cocaine addiction.
Prof Eden and colleagues first exposed participants to a Facebook-related image or a control picture, followed by a Chinese symbol which they were asked to judge as pleasant or unpleasant.
After seeing the Facebook-inspired cue heavy users of the social media site liked the Chinese picture with greater consistency than those who used it less often.
Then, a survey found those who had responded in a positive way to the symbol were more likely to crave Facebook.
Prof Eden, whose study is published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking, said because of giving in to temptation, people often struggle with feelings of guilt.
If they try to regulate Facebook usage and fail, they feel badly, so they turn to Facebook and feel badly again. It’s a cycle of self-regulatory failure, she said.
But, she says, the guilt is more damaging to the psyche than failing to control the media.
The solution could be to remove some of the cues from people’s environment such as, for example, removing the Facebook logo from a mobile phone home screen.
Prof Eden, from Michigan State University, added: “Media, including social media, is one of the most commonly failed goals to regulate.
“People try to regulate themselves and they really have difficulty with it.”
Earlier this year the same team found the mere sight of the Facebook logo is now enough to get some people craving time online.
The researchers said it illustrated just how obsessed people are becoming, and could help to develop a social media rehabilitation programme.
They claimed the site is just as addictive as chocolate or nicotine.
And last year brain scans of undergraduates revealed images relating to Facebook activated the amygdala and striatum – the brain regions involved in compulsive behaviour. These brain patterns were similar to those in people addicted to cocaine.
*What a load of killjoy claptrap!. BJ
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