young people absorbed in smartphonesA team of researchers from the Faculty of Human Kinetics has found young adults would make lifestyle sacrifices or even die younger rather than lose their social media presence. Photo by fauxels.

Young adults willing to go to scary lengths to stay online, researchers find

Some young adults would rather give up sex or cut 10 years off their life expectancies than give up social media, a team of researchers from UWindsor’s Faculty of Human Kinetics has found.

Paige Coyne, Bailey Csabai, and Sarah Woodruff surveyed 750 Canadians aged 16 to 30 about the sacrifices they’d be willing to make to stay online.

The results, they say, are “quite honestly, scary.”

Nearly 10 per cent of respondents said they would accept being unable to have children, they’d give up sex, or they’d forfeit one year of their life to maintain their social media connections. Five per cent said they’d forfeit five years of life expectancy and three per cent said they’d gladly die a decade earlier. Five per cent also said they’d be willing to contract a sexually transmitted infection or be diagnosed with a life-threatening illness like cancer rather than give up social media.

A greater number of participants were willing to sacrifice lifestyle choices. About 40 per cent of respondents were willing to give up caffeine, alcohol, and video games. Thirty per cent were willing to give up playing sports, watching TV, or eating at their favourite restaurants.

Another 10 to 15 per cent said they’d rather gain 15 pounds, shave their heads, give up their driver’s licence, or live without air conditioning.

The team has written about their findings in The Conversation, an online publication featuring articles from academics and researchers around the world.

Dr. Woodruff, a kinesiology professor and associate dean - academic programs in the Faculty of Human Kinetics, leads the Community Health, Environment and Wellness (CHEW) lab. Coyne, who recently successfully defended her doctoral thesis, and Csabai, who recently successfully defended her Master’s thesis, are researchers in the CHEW lab.

“As researchers who study societal relationships with these technologies, we began to wonder the lengths young adults might go to maintain their connection to social media,” they write.

“We are not the kind of researchers who want to rid the world of social media. Quite the opposite, we use it ourselves. We see the benefits and consequences and want to encourage conversations, reflection and thinking about how and why we use social media.”

Read their full article in The Conversation here.

—Sarah Sacheli