Major Facebook users are worse at making decisions

(Credit: Getty Images)

New research shows a connection between social media use and impaired risky decision-making.

“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,” says Dar Meshi, lead author and assistant professor at Michigan State University. “Our findings will hopefully motivate the field to take social media overuse seriously.”

The findings, which appear in the Journal of Behavior Addictions, are the first to examine the relationship between social media use and risky decision-making capabilities.

“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 says. “But no one previously looked at this behavior as it relates to excessive social media users, so we investigated this possible parallel between excessive social media users and substance abusers. While we didn’t test for the cause of poor decision-making, we tested for its correlation with problematic social media use.”

The researchers had 71 participants take a survey that measured their psychological dependence on Facebook, similar to addiction. Questions on the survey asked about users’ preoccupation with the platform, their feelings when unable to use it, attempts to quit, and the impact that Facebook has had on their job or studies.

“…social media has tremendous benefits for individuals, but there’s also a dark side when people can’t pull themselves away.”

The researchers then had the participants do the Iowa Gambling Task, a common exercise used by psychologists to measure decision-making. To successfully complete the task, users identify outcome patterns in decks of cards to choose the best possible deck.

By the end of the gambling task, Meshi and his colleagues found that the more excessive participants’ social media use, the worse participants did in choosing decks. The less social they used media, the better participants did in the task.

This result is complementary to results with substance abusers. People who abuse opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, or other drugs—have similar outcomes on the Iowa Gambling Task, which shows the same deficiency in decision-making.

“With so many people around the world using social media, it’s critical for us to understand its use,” Meshi says.

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

Additional researchers are from Michigan State and Monash University.

Source: Michigan State University