There's a new obsession, and it should be called nosocophobia.
A recent study by Qualtrics found that 42% of Millennials can't go more than five hours without checking at least one social media account. Gen X and Baby Boomers claim to be much more resilient to the allure of Facebook and other platforms. Only 26% of the Gen X age group and 29% of Boomers said they can't last more than five hours without checking their feeds. My theory is that it is more than just a fear of missing out.
As you may already know, we get a small squirt of dopamine when we see a message directed at us or read a chat message from a friend. It's a feeling of accomplishment and success, albeit pretty minor; it's something that at least tells us we are needed, we're important, and we matter. We can't get enough of that.
But how about the five hour time period?
If you're at work, that's more than a little obsessive, given that most of us are not employed as social media strategists who need to be on Facebook all day. Let's be honest. We're checking for messages from our kids about a soccer game or inspecting a friend's vacation photos. And, apparently, anyone under 30 or 35 is doing that a lot.
On Instagram, it can be even more addictive, of course.
That "just one more photo" tendency is highly compulsive. Instagram is primarily intended as a photo sharing platform for consumers, although some brands (including Inc. magazine) use the app as a way to generate brand interest. If you check the Inc. feed, it's filled with cool photos from the magazine and only a few links to the site.
What I've noticed most about young adults using social media is that the phone is a conduit for sharing life events. Ironically, that's how Twitter started out. You can find out what friends are doing, what they think, and where they are in the world on Instagram.
It's all about the eye candy. It might explain why, in my own discussions with Millennials in recent months, that Facebook is losing favor. There's an obvious visual side to the biggest social network ever, but it's also intended for longer posts, videos, and other content. It's a bit cluttered. Instagram is only about the visuals.
Meanwhile, about Twitter. It might be sinking like a ship. Again in my own discussions, there isn't a fascination with Twitter feeds as much as there once was. While Millennials are checking for Twitter updates from their favorite artists and, it seems, the President of the United States, they are not posting as often about their own activities. Instagram is gaining ground here and Facebook is holding its own...for now.
Do you think the number will go down? Five hours is not a long time period. Some Millennials likely check their feeds once per hour or more. They certainly use Facebook as a chat tool, sometimes skipping normal testing altogether. I wouldn't be surprised if the five hour window shrunk down to three hours or even two hours by next year.