A new study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking found that even brief exposure to a Facebook-related image like a logo or screenshot of the page, can cause a pleasurable response in frequent users of the site. This, in turn, can trigger social media cravings. Think of it like seeing a fast food logo, which triggers cravings for fries. This combo of positive feelings and cravings makes it way too hard for us to resist.
In the study – participants were exposed to a Facebook-related cue (like a logo or screenshot), followed by a Chinese symbol. They then had to judge whether the Chinese symbol was pleasant or unpleasant.
The people who used Facey the most rated the symbol as pleasant with greater consistency than less frequent users. In the second study, the participants were given a survey to measure their Facebook cravings.
“People are learning this reward feeling when they get to Facebook,” she said. “What we show with this study is that even with something as simple as the Facebook logo, seeing the Facebook wall of a friend or seeing anything associated with Facebook, is enough to bring that positive association back,” said study author Allison Eden, from Michigan State University.
If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to cut back on screen time, don’t beat yourself up. The researchers believe Facebook exposure is a ‘learned response’ – and these kinds of responses are really hard to break.
Plus, Eden reckons the guilt over failing to cut back is actually more damaging to your psyche than the failure itself. This guilt also starts a vicious cycle – you try stop using social media and fail, then feel bad, so you use Facebook to make yourself feel better… then feel bad again.
Instead, if you want to use Facebook less before bed, for example, the study authors recommend removing the cues. Ie, move the app off the homescreen on your iPhone. Or, of course, you can just keep scrolling and own your Facebook obsession. Like.