Social networks can change self-control

Jan. 14, 2013 at 4:46 PM
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PITTSBURGH, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- People whose self-esteem is boosted by "likes" or positive comments on social networks may have reduced self-control both on and offline, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia Business School said users who are focused on positive comments from close friends tend to experience an increase in self-esteem while browsing their social networks, which afterward can translate to less self-control.

Writing in the Journal of Consumer Research, the study authors said social network use among this category of users is also associated with individuals having 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 T. Stephen said.

"We have demonstrated that using today's most popular social network, Facebook, may have a detrimental affect on people's self-control."

Participants in a study were instructed either to check Facebook or read news articles on CNN.com, then choose between eating a healthy granola bar or a chocolate-chip cookie. Those who had browsed Facebook were more likely to choose the cookie, researchers said.

Participants also completed a survey asking their height and weight, the number of credit cards they have and the amount of debt on them, and how many friends they have offline.

"The results suggest that greater social network use is associated with a higher body-mass index, increased binge eating, a lower credit score, and higher levels of credit-card debt for individuals with strong ties to their social network," the researchers wrote.

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