Addiction or attention bias? Frequent use of social media not the same as addiction, say researchers

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Researchers from the University of Strathclyde wanted to see if social media users were drawn to apps through a process called attentional bias, which is one of the hallmarks of addiction.

The researchers asked 100 participants to locate specific social media apps on a simulated smartphone screen as quickly and accurately as possible, while ignoring other apps. Their findings didn’t indicate that their attention was drawn more to social media apps compared to others, and said that people who frequently checked and posted on their social media accounts were no more likely to be drawn to [an] app than those who rarely check and/or post. 

READ MORE: Would you download an app that reminds you, several times a day, that you're going to die? 

One research partner said that while research has shown that there are positive aspects to social media engagement such as feelings of social connectedness and wellbeing, much of the focus has been on negative mental health outcomes, which are associated with excessive use.

These negative outcomes include higher levels of depression and anxiety. 

Much more research is required into the effects of social media use – both positive and negative before definitive conclusions can be reached about the psychological effects of engagement with these platforms.

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