Addicted to Facebook: Four reasons we keep coming back

ITHACA, N.Y. – Admit it, you’ve thought about walking away from Facebook at one time or another. Perhaps you’ve gone so far as to shut down your account, swearing never to return, only to meekly log back in a week later.

New research from Cornell Information and Science discovered four reasons it’s so hard to break up with Facebook:

  • Perceived addiction – Those who feel that Facebook is addictive or habitual were more likely to return, according to the group’s research. One participant described this habitual aspect by saying, “In the first ten days, whenever I opened up an Internet browser, my fingers would automatically go to ‘f’.”
  • Privacy and surveillance – People who use Facebook largely to manage how other people think of them are more likely to log back in, while users who felt their Facebook activity was being monitored were less likely to revert
  • Subjective mood – Are you in a good mood? You’re less likely to renege on your pledge to stay off Facebook.
  • Other social media – The group found that Facebook users were less likely to log back in if they had other social media outlets – like Twitter, for instance – to occupy their time. Interestingly, though, those who reflected on the appropriate role for technology in their social lives were more likely to revert. In many of these cases, people returned to Facebook but altered their use, for example, uninstalling the app from their phones, reducing their number of friends, or limiting the amount of time spent on the platform.

“These results show just how difficult daily decisions about social media use can be,” said Eric Baumer, the study’s first author and Information Science and Communication Researcher at Cornell. “In addition to concerns over personal addiction, people are reluctant about corporations collecting, analyzing, and potentially monetizing their personal information. However, Facebook also serves numerous important social functions, in some cases providing the only means for certain groups to keep in touch. These results highlight the complexities involved in people’s ongoing decisions about how to use, or not use, social media.”

For more information:
Daryl Lovell
Office: 607-254-4799
Mobile: 607-592-3925

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews. For additional information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.