Do you feel a compulsion to check your phone for activity on Twitter? Tweeting or checking emails may be harder to resist than cigarettes and alcohol, according to researchers who tried to measure how well people could resist their desires. They even claim that while sleep and sex may be stronger urges, people are more likely to give in to longings or cravings to use social and other media because it is free!
A team headed by Wilhelm Hofmann of Chicago University’s Booth Business School say their experiment, using BlackBerrys to gauge the willpower of 205 people aged between 18 and 85 in and around the German city of Würtzburg is the first to monitor responses outside a laboratory.
The participants were signaled seven times a day over 14 hours for seven consecutive days so they could message back whether they were experiencing a desire at that moment or had experienced one within the last 30 minutes, what type it was, the strength (up to irresistible), whether it conflicted with other desires and whether they resisted or went along with it. There were 10,558 responses and 7,827 “desire episodes” reported.
“Modern life is a welter of assorted desires marked by frequent conflict and resistance, the latter with uneven success,” said Hofmann. Sleep and leisure were the most problematic desires, suggesting “pervasive tension between natural inclinations to rest and relax and the multitude of work and other obligations”.
The researchers found that as the day wore on, willpower became lower. Their paper says highest “self-control failure rates” were recorded with media. “Resisting the desire to work was likewise prone to fail. In contrast, people were relatively successful at resisting sports inclinations, sexual urges, and spending impulses, which seems surprising given the salience in modern culture of disastrous failures to control sexual impulses and urges to spend money. 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, even though one wants to resist.”
Social media is free and hard to resist! We are all hardwired to desire connection.