Social Media Addiction More Likely to Appear in Real-Life Bullies

The findings, while hardly surprising, serve to highlight why the internet is so full of trolls.
Chris Young

Social media is a divisive place at the best of times, so it's hardly surprising to read that people who enjoy embarrassing or angering others are the most likely to be addicted to the medium.

The findings, compiled by a group of researchers at Michigan State University and California State University at Fullerton, are noteworthy; however, for one standout reason: they show that social media might give a skewed perception of humanity.


In other words, cruel people are more likely to engage with social media and for longer, meaning that they generate more content. So, if you get low when you read all the angry argumentative comments online, just remember, they're not representative of humanity as a whole.

Tracking social media behavior

The researchers behind the study tracked the usage of 472 university students on Snapchat and Facebook — Snapchat is used on average 2.64 hours per day by 18-to-24-year olds and Facebook is used on average 2.28 hours per day, FastCompany writes.

The researchers found that users displaying addictive behavior were more likely to display cruel and callous behavior towards other users on social media.

Social media sites unwittingly "cater to people who seek rewards from being cruel, such as through cyberbullying or various aggressive online behaviors," the researchers, who note the correlation between psychopathy, narcissism, and internet addiction, write.

Problematic social media use

“Our results demonstrate that individuals who have a greater preference for these types of rewards display greater problematic use of both platforms,” they continue. 

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As a side note, the study also found users with more addictive behaviors spend more time on Snapchat and attempt to quite Facebook more frequently.

Ultimately, the researchers hope that their study will prove to be helpful in treating people with internet addiction, as it will give clinicians more insight into the social rewards and feedback loops that may be motivating their behavior.

Overall, it shows us that perhaps the majority of social media content is created by people who display cruel behavior in their everyday lives: an indication that social media might not be shining a light on the cesspool that is humanity, as many have argued — often on social media.

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