We can resist anything except temptation – and Twitter

Researchers out of Chicago University’s Booth Business School recently conducted a study on people’s ability to resist their desires. It turns out that people can resist cigarettes, they can resist alcohol, they can resist sex, and they can resist the urge to spend money… but what they really really can’t resist is the urge to engage in social and other types of media. In other words, checking email, browsing Facebook, posting to Twitter, etc.

Unlike most studies of this type, which attempt to recreate temptation in a lab setting, this experiment was conducted out there in the real world. (In the German city of Wurtzburg, to be precise — we’re not exactly sure why this place was chosen to study willpower.) Researchers messaged participants seven times a day for a week to find out if they were experiencing any desires — or had done in the past half hour — and if so, whether these desires conflicted with others, and whether they resisted or gave in. Not surprisingly, willpower waned as the day went on, but at any time of day, the highest ”self-control failure rates” were with media. The researchers think that this is because the opportunity cost for each individual occurrence seems so low (compared to, say, having a drink), therefore we give in again, and again, and again. Resisting the desire to work was also way up there, which is unbelievably depressing. Cigarettes and booze, on the other hand, were way down the list. Same with sex and shopping. Back when Oscar Wilde wrote that he could resist everything except temptation, we have a feeling he wasn’t talking about work. Now we’re not even having fun when we give into temptation!

Unless you count Twitter, of course. We suppose you can’t get a hangover or an STD from ill-advised Tweeting. And you’re not going to go into debt or die of lung cancer. Though we doubt many great novels will come out of it. But hey, maybe we’ll get a great aphorism out of it instead. That’s pretty much all Oscar Wilde’s remembered for these days anyway.