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Facebook users are having a hard time detoxing from their feeds

This post has been updated.

Trying to take a hiatus from social media? If you’re finding Facebook the hardest to leave, you’re not alone.

According to new data from The Harris Poll, the giant social network ranked the highest in a new survey that looked at the social media apps that people find the hardest to break away from. (Facebook has 2.2 billion monthly active users.)

The survey looked at 2,043 adults aged 18 and older in the U.S. and found that 49% of respondents found Facebook (FB) the hardest to abstain from, followed by YouTube (parent company: GOOGL), Instagram, and Twitter (TWTR).

Source: The Harris Poll

The results varied slightly by gender. Across all ages, women found it more difficult than men to break away from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest. Men, meanwhile, found it more difficult than women to unplug from YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Tinder.

‘You’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology’

Sean Parker, an early Facebook investor and its first president, explained that Facebook was designed to play on dopamine, a chemical produced by our brains that motivates repeated behaviors.

“The thought process was all about, ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” Parker told Mike Allen of Axios in November 2017. “And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever, and that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you more likes and comments. It’s a social validation feedback loop. … You’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., attends the Viva Tech start-up and technology gathering at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on May 24, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images)

Trevor Haynes, a research technician in the department of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, further explained that “companies like Facebook will continue to do everything they can to keep your eyes glued to the screen as often as possible. And by using algorithms to leverage our dopamine-driven reward circuitry, they stack the cards — and our brains — against us.”

And taking away those dopamine hits brings its own downside: 31% of respondents to The Harris Poll said they grew anxious when they didn’t check social media regularly.

Turning users into consumers

Facebook, fully aware of its integration into people’s lives, is reportedly looking to deepen links with financial institutions to help with customer service.

“Facebook is nothing but an advertising platform,” Yahoo Finance Editor-In-Chief Andy Serwer explained on the Final Round. “And at some point, some way, somehow they’re going to have to get away from that and get into businesses that are either membership-, subscriber-based, or e-commerce, or transactions, or something like that.

“And, we all know, financial services is arguably the biggest business on the planet. And they already have some inroads. So I think there is some excitement by the marketplace that they’re looking to push out in this direction.”

The Facebook logo is reflected on a woman’s glasses in this photo illustration taken June 3, 2018. (Photo: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau)

Users want outside help

The Harris Poll noted that 61% of millennials say they’d take more digital detoxes if their friends and/or family did it with them. 

Some were so attached — 27% according to the survey — that they’d even “take a pay cut to work at a company that enforced digital restrictions for employees.” Overall, 47% of respondents wished their companies had digital detox policies that restricted emails on weekends.

(Photo: The Harris Poll)

Others have taken it to the extreme and deleted their social media accounts: 4 in 10 respondents in a recent survey by Edelman said that they deleted at least one social media account in the past year. And according to Pivotal Research, the aggregated time spent on Facebook and Messenger fell 10% in June.

But most users remain committed to the giant social network — as the data show — to the extent that they’d rather not stay away for long.

Follow Aarthi on Twitter.

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