About 50% of mobile phone owners use their devices as their primary Internet source, which is likely why there are some 1.9 billion mobile active Facebook users as of the end of January 2015, a 26% year-over-year increase. While that’s all perfectly fine, a new study suggests that such mobile device usage is getting out of hand, and having real world consequences.
Last year, over 500,000 drivers used their mobile devices while driving — an increase of nearly 50% since 2008 — and “Facebook addiction” is being blamed.
The United Kingdom’s Department for Transportation surveyed tens of thousands of motorists about their mobile phone usage habits, and found that just 1.5% of drivers used their phone at the wheel. However, people between the ages of 17 and 29 were were found to be four times more likely to use their mobile phones while driving.
According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, distracted driving makes a motorist 23 times more likely to get into an accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also reports that in 2012, driver distraction caused 18% of all fatal crashes, killing 3,328 people.
This increase in hazardous behavior is being blamed on Facebook addiction, as the DfT report found that two-thirds of those who use their mobile devices while driving were using their phones to text or check social media.
According to a California State University study published late in January, the brains of “Facebook addicts” — those who report compulsive urges to use the social networking site — show similar patterns to those of drug addicts, in that each has more activity in the impulse centers of their brain.
Facebook addiction doesn’t seem all that strange of an idea, either, when you consider that the site has all the elements of an addictive product. It hooks people with a trigger (such as boredom), an action (such as opening the mobile app), a reward (such as a new, funny video posted to a user’s wall), and an investment (such as liking or commenting on said video),
Nir Eyal, author of “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products,” told Live Science.
To get “unhooked,” a user needs to break the chain, to put a bit of friction in the process. For example, a user might block Facebook on their smartphone.
And while that might not be the most desirable thing in the world, it could help save lives.