By Khurram Aziz email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Jan 16, 2013 09:53 AM EST
A new study suggests that social networks, like Facebook, can cause its users to become more impulsive due to the boost in self-esteem they provide.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia Business School said that this boost led to a loss of self-control leading them to splurge on their credit cards.
Writing in the Journal of Consumer Research, the study's authors said social network use is also associated with people who have higher body-mass indexes and higher levels of credit-card debt.
"To our knowledge, this is the first research to show that using online social networks can affect self-control," University of Pittsburgh researcher Andrew Stephen told UPI. "We have demonstrated that using today's most popular social network, Facebook, may have a detrimental affect on people's self-control."
The study looked at more than 1,000 Facebook users and in one test, they were asked to either spend a few minutes browsing social network sites or to look through CNN.com and TMZ.com. Volunteers were then asked to choose between a healthy snack or a chocolate chip cookie and it was discovered that those using social network sites were more likely to opt for the chocolate chip cookie.
"Because consumers care about the image they present to close friends, social network use enhances self-esteem in users who are focused on close friends while browsing their social network. This momentary increase in self-esteem leads them to display less self-control after browsing a social network," wrote the authors, as reported by Forbes.
"These results are concerning given the increased time people spend using social networks, as well as the worldwide proliferation of access to social networks anywhere anytime via smartphones and other gadgets. Given that self-control is important for maintaining social order and personal well-being, this subtle effect could have widespread impact. This is particularly true for adolescents and young adults who are the heaviest users of social networks and have grown up using social networks as a normal part of their daily lives," they added.
Facebook claims over one billion users around the world, with social network use accounting for nearly 23 percent of time spent on the internet in the U.S. - or approximately double the time spent on any other online activity.