Social networking is harder to resist than smoking and drinking

By on February 7, 2012
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Even more than sleeping.

A team of researchers headed by Wilhelm Hofmann of Chicago University made quite an interesting, albeit obvious, discovery. According to their findings, people are more likely to give into their cravings to check their emails and social networks than sleeping and sex, more so than consuming cigarettes and alcohol.

The experiment was carried out in Würtzburg, Germany, where 205 people between the age of 18 and 85 were given BlackBerry handsets to monitor their behavior “in the wild”. Each participant was pinged 7 times a day over the period of 14 hours for 7 days. Everybody was to reply back specifying whether they experienced the desire for something at that moment, or within the last 30 minutes, and what the desire was about. Additionally they were also asked on how strong their urges were, whether they were irresistible, and if they conflicted with other desires. There were 10,558 responses and 7,827 “desire episodes” reported.

The largest  ”self-control failure rates” were recorded with media (checking emails, Twitter and Facebook). “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,” said Hofmann.

The report also makes note that desires for tobacco, alcohol and coffee were relatively low. ”With cigarettes and alcohol there are more costs – long-term as well as monetary – and the opportunity may not always be the right one.”

Hofmann told the Guardian, ”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.”


From auditing to editing, I now test and analyze the latest gadgets and games instead of the latest financial statements. Both jobs are equally intense and rewarding. When I'm not burning up hardware in the name of science, you'll find me nuking in DOTA 2 or engineering in TF2.

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