Social media plays an important role in our daily lives. Many of us wake up in the morning and check our Facebook or Twitter feeds before leaning over and kissing our partners good morning… but does that mean we’re addicted?
Facebook is used by half the world’s Internet users and the scary truth is it’s much more addictive than you may have realised.
In a new social media documentary called Sara Cox ON Friendship for channel W, Radio 2 DJ Sara Cox explores relationships on social media and whether or not they are having a positive impact on real-life friendships, the Daily Mail reports.
In order to figure this out, Cox agreed to undergo a “friendship test” at Liverpool University. The test involved having an MRI scan to determine how the brain reacts when it sees pictures of friends and loved ones as opposed to images of complete strangers.
Neuroscientist Dr. Joanne Powell analysed the results, informing Cox that there was a difference in her brain activity when she saw images of strangers compared to those who play an important role in her life.
“What is unique is what happens in the brain when you are processing your closest friends, you activated parts of the brain that process emotion and long term memory in the cerebral cortex. It shows your friends really are lighting up your brain,” Dr. Powell explained.
The findings may seem sweet — we have a positive reaction to seeing our loved ones — but they made Cox question whether this could be the motivation for people who use Facebook so often, because you “look at your friends and feel happier that you have seen them.”
The next part of the programme saw Cox discuss these effects with psychotherapist Simon Jacobs, who treats people for clinical addiction to social media.
Jacobs warned how excessive use of social media can be detrimental, especially if people use it as an alternative to real-world interaction.
“There is a real problem with using Facebook and not actually having interaction with people,” Jacobs said. “We need to see a person and have that consequential feedback and how we are impacting on them.”
But here is where the really terrifying part comes into play: according to Jacobs, social media can be as addictive as a Class A drug.
“With a Facebook addiction, you are doing something that in your estimation is going to make you feel part of the group, and like you belong and are valued, so you get a little hit from that,” he explained.
“It is the same sort of hit you get from a Class A drug, it may not be as extreme but the same process is happening, the same dopamine [a hormone which controls pleasure] release.”