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Decreased Preference for Freedom is Linked to Social Media Dependence



According to new research that was published in the journal Psychological Reports, a decreased preference for freedom is linked to dependency on social media. According to the study, people who rely a lot on social media may use it as a way to avoid the risks and difficulties of real life.

Social media dependency alludes to a condition where people develop a strong reliance on social media platforms, prompting excessive and compulsive use that negatively influences different aspects of their lives. It involves a strong desire to engage with social media on a regular basis, difficulty controlling one’s use, and adverse effects brought on by excessive use.

Anxiety was found to be mediated by factors like uncertainty intolerance and experiential avoidance in previous studies of social media use. Expanding upon this information, the creators behind the new review tried to analyze whether online entertainment reliance impacted people’s inclination for opportunity and their propensity to stay away from circumstances including independent direction.

“Our research has suggested that many people use social media (and the web more generally) to calm themselves, increasingly people seem to be more anxious about ‘things in general,’ and so an escape from a situation over which they have little control anyway seemed a coping strategy that was highly likely,” said study author Phil Reed, a psychology professor at Swansea University and author of “Interventions for Autism: Evidence for Educational and Clinical Practice.”

“It also allowed us to unite a couple of areas in the field that don’t often get talked about together – learning and psychoanalysis.”

The researchers recruited 151 participants for their study, with a mean age of 23.85 years and a mix of male, female, and non-binary participants. The majority of participants claimed to be of white ethnicity. The researchers took screenshots of the participants’ time spent on social media over the previous week to determine the level of daily use.

Members finished different polls to measure social media addiction, trait anxiety, intolerance of uncertainty, and experiential avoidance. Additionally, they completed an experimental task based on the literature on instrumental conditioning.

Participants were given two colored squares on a screen for the experimental task. One square represented a “forced” choice, while the other represented a “free” choice. Participants were rewarded for their choice. They carried out this procedure in eight trials. The researchers wanted to find out how behavioral choices between “free” and “forced” options were related to social media dependency and various aspects of anxiety using this experimental paradigm.

Anxiety and intolerance of uncertainty were found to be higher in participants who were more dependent on social media.

The participants demonstrated a general preference for the option that provided them with more freedom of choice during the experimental task. This result lends credence to previous studies using pigeons. However, members who were vigorously subject to web-based entertainment didn’t show a similar inclination for opportunity. They were less likely than people who were less dependent on social media to prefer freedom. Additionally, people who were highly dependent on social media made decisions more quickly, indicating an impulsive tendency.

“I think what people could take from this is just a reminder to check in with themselves about why they are reaching for that mobile,” Reed told PsyPost. “Is it just an unthinking impulsive response, or do they really want to get online that way? Think about your reasons, and the triggers that make you do something, can be a start to getting them under control.”

The discoveries recommend that online entertainment reliance is related with diminished inclination for opportunity and expanded uneasiness and prejudice of vulnerability. Using social media as a means of escape from uncertain real-world situations is a possibility. The study additionally upholds the possibility that virtual entertainment reliance is connected with incautious way of behaving.

“When things go as we predicted, I’m always surprised – that’s the one thing you should never expect in science,” Reed said. “I think the fact that people react so quickly and impulsively by reaching for the mobile when they carry a level of stress and worry with them was the really surprising thing – it’s just such a fast, unthinking response.”

However, the researchers stated that additional research is required to gain a deeper comprehension of the connection that exists between dependence on social media, anxiety, and decision-making processes.

“There are always caveats to any work – the main one being that we need to try to understand the differences between people – are there some groups that are particularly prone to this type of behaviour – perhaps related to experiences that they have had in the past? Are there differences depending on the main usages of the social media for people? However, the results are fairly solid across a wide group of participants.”


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