By Maia Szalavitz
Twitter and Facebook are harder to resist than alcohol and cigarettes, but so is the urge to work, according to new research on people’s daily struggles with self-control and desire. The counterintuitive findings may reveal more about the complexities of defining addiction and self-discipline than anything else.
Researchers gave BlackBerrys to 205 adults and signaled them seven times a day at randomly selected daytime hours for one week. When they were contacted, participants reported whether they were experiencing desire for something, what it was that they wanted, how strong the urge was, whether they wished to resist this desire and if they did in fact yield to the temptation.
The most strongly felt desires were for sleep and sex. Unexpectedly, cravings for cigarettes and alcohol were reported as weakest. In terms of actual behavior, participants had the hardest time stopping themselves from checking social media when they preferred not to, and from working when that was not what they truly wanted to do, suggesting that these urges actually drove people’s actions more than drugs or sex did.