Social media has become an integral part of everyday life for many people all over the world, including Africa. But does it also weaken your self-control and make you prone to doing things you know are bad for you?
A new study has found that Facebook users, who interact with large numbers of online friends on a regular basis, feel better about themselves.
However, this ego boost has an ‘unintended psychological consequence’, as users relax their self-control which makes them more prone to impulse purchases and overindulgence in junk food that they know is bad for them.
The study, "Are Close Friends the Enemy? Online Social Networks, Self-Esteem, and Self-Control", was carried out by the professors of Columbian Pittsburgh Universities.
'Simply browsing Facebook makes people feel better about themselves and momentarily enhances their self-esteem,' the research says. 'It’s that enhanced self-esteem that ultimately lowers your self-control.'
The loss of self-control, the report suggests, can result in self-indulgence. When you feel good, you can rationalize ordering dessert or buying something you don’t really need.
Facebook users were quizzed about online habits, their financial situation and how often they engaged in binge eating. The results found that Facebook users with strong social ties typically had a higher body-mass index (BMI), were more prone to binge eating, carried more credit card debt and had lower credit scores.
One experiment required the volunteers to either browse the internet or use Facebook for five minutes. They were then asked to take part in an online auction for a new iPad. Those who had been on Facebook and who had a higher percentage of close friends on Facebook submitted higher bids than those volunteers who simply browsed the internet before taking part in the auction.
It has been concluded that Facebook use 'is causing people to have reduced self-control in a variety of situations.'
The so-called 'Facebook effect' is subtle and develops over time, although the impact is more pronounced with heavy users who are recommended to become more aware about what it might be doing to them.