Facebook’s vicious cycle: Regularly using social media causes people to get stressed which then fuels addiction to the sites
- Experts studied the behaviours and stress responses of 444 Facebook users
- When it stresses them, more frequent users are less likely to log off Facebook
- Instead they switch to a different kind of activity on the social networking site
- This prolongs their time on social media and increases the risk of addiction
Regular use of social media sites like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook can cause huge amounts of stress which, scientists say, can fuel addiction to the sites.
Social networking platforms are known to generate so-called ‘technostress’ among users.
This is not enough to make users ditch the site, but often just makes users use the site in a slightly different way instead.
If this next activity causes more stress, the person again just flips to another social media action,browsing the news feed, messaging etc.
This vicious circle then raises the risk of these people becoming embroiled in an internet web and becoming addicted.
Using Facebook generates stress that can help people form an addition to the social media site, researchers have cautioned. Rather than avoiding social media, stressed Facebook users switch to other activities on the site — such as messaging, viewing feeds or posting
WHAT FORM DOES TECHNOSTRESS TAKE?
The researchers looked at various forms of technostress, including:
- Feeling that social media was invading the users’ lives.
- Experiencing excessive social demands.
- Being inundated with too much social information.
- Users feeling a need to change how they use social media to conform with that of their friends.
- Adapting to frequent changes to the social networking site itself.
IT and management expert Monideepa Tarafdar of the Lancaster University and colleagues examined the habits of 444 Facebook users.
They looked at various forms of technostress that can be caused through the use of social media — including the feeling that the sites were invading users’ lives, that users were receiving too much information and that the site was always changing.
Alongside this, the team also explored two different principle approaches to handling technostress from social networking.
The first involved users that sought diversions from social media itself — such as through logging out of Facebook, spending less time on the platform or discussing the sources of their stress with friends or family.
The other response — which the researchers found was more common among frequent Facebook users — involved diversion through different activities within the same social network platform.
‘While it might seem counter-intuitive, social media users are continuing to use the same platforms that are causing them stress rather than switching off from them,’ said Professor Tarafdar.
This, she added, creates ‘a blurring between the stress caused and the compulsive use.’
‘Because social network sites offer such a wide range of features, users can find they act both as stressors and as a distraction from that stress,’ added paper co-author Christian Maier of the University of Bamberg, Germany.
‘Even when users are stressed from social network site use, they are using the same platforms to cope with that stress, diverting themselves through other activities on the [sites], and ultimately building compulsive and excessive behaviour.’
‘As a result, they embed themselves in the social network environment rather than getting away from it, and an addiction is formed.’
Monideepa Tarafdar of the Lancaster University and colleagues studied the habits of 444 Facebook users, looking at different forms of ‘technostress’ and user responses
‘We found that those users who had a greater social media habit needed less effort to find another aspect of the platforms,’ noted paper co-author Sven Laumer of the Dr Theo and Friedl Schöller Research Center.
‘Users go to different areas of the platform which they see as being separate and that they use in different ways.’
‘With Facebook, there are features that take you into different worlds within the same platform.’
‘The idea of using the same environment that is causing the stress as means of coping with that stress is novel,’ concluded Professor Tarafdar.
‘It is an interesting phenomenon that seems distinctive to technostress from social media.’
The full findings of the study were published in the Information Systems Journal.
HOW DO YOU CHECK HOW MUCH TIME YOU SPEND ON FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM?
Facebook and Instagram users can now monitor how much time they spend within the app, thanks to new tools designed to improve your digital health.
The new feature is found in the settings menu of each app.
For Facebook users on iOS, tap on the three line symbol in the bottom-right corner of the app to launch the settings menu.
Android users need to tap the same symbol, but will find it at the top-right.
Scroll down the settings menu and tap on the ‘Your Time on Facebook’ option.
For Instagram, users will need to load the settings page, and then scroll down to the option marked ‘Your Activity’.
Both apps include a breakdown of the exact number of minutes you’ve spent on Facebook and Instagram using a particular device.
This data is presented in the style of a bar chat, with users able to tap any bar to see the total time spent for that particular day.
Scrolling further down the page, Facebook and Instagram include the option to set a daily reminder that sends an alert after you’ve reached the amount of time you want to spend on the app for that day.
You can change or cancel the reminder at any time by heading back to the same settings menu.
In the same settings menu on Instagram and Facebook, you can tap on ‘Notification Settings’ to access an updated ‘Mute Push Notifications’ tool.
This lets you mute all notifications from the social network app for a predetermined period of time.