For many of us, tapping the Facebook app on our phones has become second nature. First thing in the morning, last thing at night; sometimes we probably don’t even realise we’re doing it. Technology addiction is nothing new, but thanks to society’s increasing obsession with social media and so many new forms of tech making it easier to access just about anything, or anyone, at any time, it’s only getting worse.
But while we’re all guilty of endlessly scrolling through our Facebook feeds, it turns out this could be affecting us in ways we didn’t expect. A new study carried out by a professor from the California State University, Fullerton, monitored the brains of 20 volunteers, looking at the ways in which they were affected when they could see images they associated with Facebook.
To break it down, participants (who were all students at California State University) were shown different images, some related to Facebook, and were told to press a button when they appeared. Apparently, some of the students responded to the Facebook images faster than they did to road signs. Professor Ofir Turel from the university said: “This is scary when you think about it, since it means that users might respond to a Facebook message on their mobile device before reacting to traffic conditions if they are using technology while on the road.”
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The study goes on to state that “technology-related ‘addictions’ share some neural features with substance and gambling addictions,” while brain imaging proved that when people were shown the images relating to Facebook, the regions of the brain linked to addiction were activated. Basically, the brain patterns were just like those of people addicted to cocaine.
It’s all pretty scary stuff, but don’t despair just yet. Researchers also found that while being monitored, the impulsive systems in the brains of Facebook users worked, unlike in drug addicts. This means that an addiction to Facebook is obviously much easier to treat.
Professor Turel went on to say: “This is good news, since it means that the behaviour can be corrected with treatment. We speculate that addictive behaviour in this case stems from low motivation to control the behaviour, which is due partly to the relatively benign societal and personal consequences of technology overuse, compared to, say, substance abuse.”
Phew. So, to save our brains while we can, we just have to be more motivated to control our use of Facebook, trying hard to limit our use of it. We sound pretty insightful. We should probably let our Facebook friends know…