Newswise — WACO, Texas (Oct. 24, 2017) – Nearly every morning, the Western world wakes to find a series of tweets from President Donald Trump. Mostly coming in the predawn hours, they range in topic and tone – often responding to, or creating, headlines of the day.
Trump has said that Twitter is his way of communicating his thoughts directly with the world, bypassing the more traditional means of using the news media, which he tends to distrust. The president’s daily use of social media begs the questions: Can people be addicted to social media? If so, is President Trump an addict?
“Yes and yes,” answered James Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.
Roberts is a nationally known expert on consumer behavior, social media and smartphone addiction, and the effects of smartphone use on relationships. He recently published a new edition of his book, “Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?” which includes a bonus chapter focused squarely on the Commander in Chief’s Twitter habits.
“Addiction is a strong word,” Roberts said. “It’s best understood and defined as ‘continuing a behavior despite its negative consequences for you and others around you.’ Yes, we can be addicted to social media use just like we can be addicted to drugs or alcohol. Addiction can result from any behavior that produces pleasure in the brain.”
In his look at President Trump, Roberts focused on the six core components applied by many health professionals when analyzing substance use disorders – salience, euphoria, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, conflicts and relapse.
Using what he knows of the president – most of which is public knowledge – Roberts, in the book, responded (on behalf of the president) to a series of 12 yes-and-no statements that the professor said helps measure those six components listed above. The statements include:
- I send tweets throughout the day.
- I feel compelled to tweet my opinions on topics important to me.
- I feel great when my tweets get a lot of attention.
- I feel better after tweeting something that needs to be said.
- Recently, I find myself tweeting more and more.
- I spend more time tweeting than I should.
- I get anxious when I can’t tweet out my thoughts on something.
- I would go into a panic if I lost access to my Twitter account.
- I have had serious arguments with others over my tweeting.
- My romantic partner says I need to cut back on my tweeting.
- I have tried to cut back on my tweeting but could not.
- I have tried to be more civil when tweeting but always go back to name calling and negative comments.
Based on knowledge of Trump’s habits, and after analyzing the president’s tweets, Roberts believes Trump would have affirmed at least 10 of those statements.
“If anyone replies ‘yes’ to eight or more of those statements, they need a Twitter intervention,” Roberts said.
The exercise of analyzing Trump’s use of social media can be seen as lighthearted, but Roberts’ research into social media and smartphone use has revealed some disturbing trends.
- One 2014 study found that college students spend eight to 10 hours per day on their devices.
- In 2015, Roberts and his colleague Meredith David, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing at Baylor, found that phone snubbing – or “phubbing” – can damage relationships and even lead to depression.
- In 2017, the researchers discovered that people who are “phubbed” by friends and loved ones often turn to social media to find acceptance.
Roberts said the trick to loosening social media’s grip on one’s life is to find your “digital sweet spot” where you are still connected but you have carved out time for the things that really matter. And regardless of whether someone’s use of social media is considered an “addiction,” there’s still a danger in using it too much, the professor said.
“Our inability to separate from technology is devastating to our well-being,” he said. “Even if it’s not an addiction, it’s a deeply ingrained habit.”
ABOUT JAMES ROBERTS, PH.D.
James Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, is a nationally known expert on social media and smartphone addiction. He recently published a 2017 updated edition of his second book, “Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?” This updated edition includes a bonus chapter entitled, “Tweet Like Trump.” In this new chapter Roberts analyzes Trump’s Twitter habits and renders his somewhat surprising “diagnosis”. He has been featured in numerous national and international media, including CBS Early Show, NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s World News Tonight and Good Morning America, The O’Reilly Factor, NPR, CNN, The New York Times, USA Today, Cosmopolitan Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, Yahoo! Finance and U.S. News and World Report. He is also the author of the book “Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can't Buy” (Harper Collins).
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
ABOUT HANKAMER SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business provides a rigorous academic experience, consisting of classroom and hands-on learning, guided by Christian commitment and a global perspective. Recognized nationally for several programs, including Entrepreneurship and Accounting, the school offers 24 undergraduate and 13 graduate areas of study. Visitwww.baylor.edu/business and follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Baylor_Business.