The new thing on every teenage boy’s mind is apparently his Facebook newsfeed. A new study by the University of Chicago found that for those in the Internet Age, checking tweets and other social media posts is a stronger temptation than sex or cigarettes. 250 undergraduates in Germany were given Blackberries that prompted them to report on their cravings every half hour. Participants would check into online communities, which would track their desire for sex, alcohol cigarettes, work, social media, and other gratifications. Temptations were rated from “strong” to irresistible.” and whether or not they gave into the desire was also recorded.
The head of the study, Wilhelm Hofmann, speculating on why these findings might be true, argues that “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”. While these findings are provocative, there are some objections.
Tim Worstall argues, in a recent Forbes article, that what this study truly found is that the desire for Facebook and twitter is a more frequent desire, not a more intense one. He posits that sex is a self-limiting activity, meaning once you have engaged in sexual activity, you are satisfied for a few hours. Facebook and Twitter are not self-limiting in the same way that sex is, thus this desire is more frequent. He argues that because of the way the study was conducted, by checking in with a Blackberry, the frequency of temptations is what was actually being measured, not the intensity, and this is why social media seems to be a bigger temptation.
One should also consider the length of the study, a week is not long enough to measure temptations when one is required to deny them for extended periods of time. I would argue that the longer one has to resist the desire for sex, the more intense the desire would become – the desire to check into social media on the other hand, would likely diminish or stay the same.
So as you continue to browse your Facebook, or share your endlessly hilarious thoughts via Twitter, consider that you may be engaging in the one activity you desire most.
“Facebook and Twitter more tempting than Sex: Study” New York Daily News
“How Facebook and Twitter are Trumping Sex” The Week
“Less Than Convincing Research: Twitter and Facebook are better than sex and booze” by Tim Worstall Forbes