New York: Social media such as Facebook may not only be addictive, it could also be associated with impulse control disorders, including substance abuse, a new study has warned.
Julia Hormes from the University at Albany led a team of researchers that assessed the addictive nature of social media - specifically Facebook - in a sample of undergraduate students, 18 years or older.
The study found an estimated 10 per cent of users experience what Hormes' classified as 'disordered social networking use'.
Participants categorised as meeting criteria for disordered social media use reported addiction-like behaviours including strong urges or cravings to browse the site, irritability when access was out of reach and an increase in use over a length of time.
Researchers also found that individuals struggling with social media addiction were more likely to report drinking problems.
Hormes believes that Facebook has several characteristics that may encourage the development of an addiction-like syndrome.
"New notifications or the latest content on your newsfeed acts as a reward. Not being able to predict when new content is posted encourages us to check back frequently," Hormes said.
"This uncertainty about when a new reward is available is known as a 'variable interval schedule of reinforcement' and is highly effective in establishing habitual behaviours that are resistant to extinction.
"Facebook is also making it easy for users to continuously be connected to its platform, for example by offering push notifications to mobile devices," she said.
Respondents who met criteria for disordered social networking use also tended to report problems with emotion regulation, including poor impulse control.
Emotion regulation deficits have previously been shown to be risk factors for substance addiction.
"Our findings suggest that disordered online social networking may arise as part of a cluster of risk factors that increase susceptibility to both substance and non-substance addictions," Hormes said.
Participants were evaluated on a series of diagnostic criteria commonly used to assess alcohol addiction.
Questions were modified to instead measure addiction-like symptoms related to excessive Facebook use. For example one question asked 'How good does Facebook make you feel?'
Nearly 90 per cent of the 292 respondents reported an active Facebook page, spending on average, one-third of their online browsing time within the social networking site.
Another 67 per cent received Facebook push notifications to their smartphone.
Hormes believes her study will help in officially categorising disordered online social networking as a behavioural addiction.