Study shows social media as more addictive than alcohol or cigarettes

Leadership Magazine did an article on a study reported by Kelly Bourdet of Motherboard.vice.com that suggests social media has become more addictive than traditional cigarette and alcohol vices. Participants in the study were polled several times per day and asked if they were experiencing desire of any kind (i.e. “sex, an object, a cigarette, a drink, a peek at your Twitter feed, anything.”). If so, the guinea pigs were asked to rate the desire from mild to irresistible. They were also asked which desires they had initially resisted but later gave in to. Social media ranked higher in frequency as a “self-control failure” than both cigarettes and booze.

A desire that I often have a self-control failure with is my love of cookies, as I mention in the first chapter of my book found on this blog site. A question I pose in the book is Why doesn’t God just take unhealthy desires away from his people? My question is more of a tool to show my frustration, just like Paul does in Romans 7:

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?

People who have “lesser” addictions have less motivation to correct them, a point the article brings out. The inability to function in society because of lung cancer or being consistently inebriated is a heavier price to pay (pun not initially intended) than an ongoing quest to lose a few pounds. But, I know taking that extra cookie (or three) is an act of unhealthy desire. Does that minor vice even matter to God?

A book that inspired me a few years ago was A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God by Larry Osborne. However, one aspect that I’ve struggled with is his notion that in the Old Testament some kings of Judah are regarded as “good” even though one or two may not have done away with idols. He calls idols the “blind spot” for those ancient kings. Osborne wasn’t saying that sin is good. As I recall, he was saying that we need to put things in perspective and not be overly weighed down (again, pun not intended) by guilt with our struggle with sin. I’ve had a hard time doing that.

Do you see social media as an addiction for some people? I only recognize a handful of the icons in this picture, but you only need one of them to be addicted to it. Even if there’s an addiction, so what? Does it really cause that much trouble for people? What this article addresses is the less significant addictions: “Part of the reason people give in to compulsions is because they determine that the consequences aren’t great enough for them to resist. Behaviors like smoking and drinking have a much higher ‘cost’ than quickly checking a media account.”

I wonder if anybody can relate to what Paul was saying about his experience in Romans 7 with regard to social media or another lesser evil. Do you think it’s more difficult to quit than drugs or pornography because there may be no breaking point where people have to change or face dire circumstances? Or, do you think this stuff even matters to God?

Thanks for helping me out with this.

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4 thoughts on “Study shows social media as more addictive than alcohol or cigarettes

  1. Idk…with Mother’s Day around the bend I’m tempted to look at mom’s good advice and use the old stand-by: “Everything in moderation.” I believe human beings have an insatiable heart with a severe tendency to do things obsessively. Obsession and passion in the *right* things is not *inherently* bad…just look at Paul saying “woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.” Nevetheless, our strengths are are weaknesses. Obsession, even with neutral or even very good things (like ministry, exercise, writing, and caring and interacting with others over the internet) that *intrudes* upon the *best* things (prayer, personal time with Christ, bible study, family time, household needs, caring for those who are standing in line *in front* of us) can be very problematic and even sinful in the lives of many people unaware. Thank you for this timely message. I DO believe God is concerned with the multitude of “good” distractions in our lives because they are often causing us to miss the best from Him. I was just praying this morning for the Lord to give me a heart that cares for that which I *should* be caring for and throw off the less important tasks I take much too seriously most days.

    • My wife often recalls her mom’s admonition about doing everything in moderation. She would refer to things done to the extreme (like a person eating too many cookies, for example) as “willy nilly”. That would probably include good things that we allow ourselves to be too distracted by. God’s been dealing with me on this for awhile. Thanks for commenting, Lori.

  2. I think one arrives at “dire circumstances” when you can’t maintain a personal, face to face interaction because you have to be on social media. I would also contend that social media tend to inflate one’s sense of importance beyind an appropriate level.

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