Twitter Addiction: Why It Happens and How to Overcome It

By Helen Holmes on September 17, 2012

Do you always find yourself checking your twitter account or email every now and then? Do you feel something is missing if a day pass and you didn’t tweet, checked how many followers you have, and read their tweets? Is it preventing you from getting works done? If yes, you might be among the thousands of people who are certified “twitter addict”!

Twitter addiction – how is it possible?

Experts blame one thing for this – dopamine. This naturally occurring substance is produced by different parts of the brain, which is responsible for different functions such as mood, motivation, thinking, attention, reward and seeking. Dopamine has long been linked to pleasure. It is believed that dopamine makes you experience enjoyment, pleasure and desire which then motivate you to seek out certain behaviours such as sex, food, and drugs. But a growing body of research suggests that dopamine doesn’t actually cause pleasure, but seeking behaviour. It motivates you to seek not just physical pleasures but also abstract concepts, like learning.

Research shows that it is the opioid that is responsible for the sense of pleasure. Researchers Kent Berridge refers dopamine as the “wanting” system and the opioid the “liking” system. The two works together – dopamine motivates you to seek and opioid makes us feel satisfied for it. Once the pleasure is out, we seek again. It becomes a continuous loop.

The internet gives the dopamine a huge, unlimited venue to seek and gather information. Whether it is a complicated scientific term, a profile of your long-lost crush, the whereabouts of your classmates and childhood friends, or the contact information of a business – the internet provides the answers right away.

The phenomenal social network twitter, stimulates the “wanting” system more and more by limiting the amount of information that can be obtained. Each user is allowed only 140 characters per tweet. Because it doesn’t fully satisfy the brain, the dopamine system becomes highly active.

Media addiction worse than smoking and alcohol

A group of researchers from the Chicago University’s Booth Business School found that tweeting and emailing are more addictive than guess what – alcohol and cigarettes.  The team, headed by Wilhelm Hofmann, conducted a study on 205 Blackberry users and measured their willpower when it comes to tweeting or email checking. Their study reported the highest self-control failure rates. According to Hofmann, the possible reason for this is that these media are highly available and do not cost too much to engage in. But with cigarettes and alcohol, there are long-term and monetary costs, he said. However, the researchers pointed out that despite all these, media desires still steal a lot of people’s time.

Busting off twitter addiction

If you feel like twitter is occupying a lot of your time that you only have a little left for more important matters, here are things you can do to bust off the addiction:

1.       Set a schedule for tweeting.

Tweeting can be done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and even on holidays. Therefore, you really don’t have to rush your day just to check your twitter account. Setting up a “tweeting schedule” is one way to give time for more important tasks without depriving yourself from your media desires. 

2.       Stick to twitter alone.

There are phone apps that let you use twitter anytime, anywhere. Little you know, they are consuming much of your time. By getting rid of these applications, you can cut back the time spent on twitter. 

3.       Make twitter a hobby, not a habit.

If you tweet every day, it becomes more of a habit for you, not a hobby. Why not save your tweeting desires for the weekend? This way, you can become more productive during work days and relax and have fun on weekends.

 

Sources of this article:

Kent C. Berridge and Terry E. Robinson, What is the role of dopamine in reward: hedonic impact, reward learning, or incentive salience?: Brain Research Reviews, 28, 1998. 309–369.

Twitter is harder to resist than cigarettes and alcohol, study finds, The Guardian

 

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