Could social media be the new abstinence programme?
A new study has found that young people are more inclined to choose social media over sex. For seven consecutive days, 250 participants identified yearnings to interact through tweets, photos and comments as the most difficult stimulants to turn down; more tempting even than sex. The study also showed that the more the participants tried to resist social media, the higher the craving became.
This, coupled with another study that suggests that public health messages on Facebook are effective at increasing condom use among young adults, thus decreasing the chance of spreading STDs, at least for a little while.
So could social media be the best sexual deterrent we have seen?
If we think about it, of course it is, and there are several reasons for this:
1. Social media is an isolated activity and therefore takes place alone, conversing with people who are not close to you. So you can flirt, chat and even talk a little dirty if you wish in the absolute knowledge that this will not go any further.
2. Sex fulfils our need to love and belong as can social media. Research has show that being on social media releases the chemical called oxytocin - the cuddle hormone. So social media fulfils their need to love and belong by its very nature, so why feel the need to go out and get in a complicated relationship when the internet can give you the same hit but quicker?
3. Research has found that when dealing with extreme emotions (like those experienced just before sexual contact), people find it difficult to make rational decisions. Hence things that they would never say yes to when rational may well be agreed to when under extreme arousal, for example. Social media takes away the rash, and while they may get aroused by some of the conversations they have, they can’t act on them – well, they can’t act on them with the other person at least.
So perhaps encouraging your child to get on twitter is the best thing you can do for their sexual health.
But hold on, I hear you say, it can’t be that simple? Well, it isn’t; I guess that for every up there is a down, (pardon the pun).
This research also shows us how powerful the lure to social media is for our young people. A lure greater than sex, now that is saying something. Disconnecting them from their on-line social life really can be torture for them and that is a little scary, to say the least.
But perhaps more importantly, if our children are not engaging in sexual behaviour and all it’s the pros and cons, how are they learning about relationships, about having a boyfriend or a girlfriend? How are they learning to recover from a broken heart? It seems that they are ditching the real life world of complexity for the on-line world and that does worry me slightly.
Although I have to say that on balance, I would prefer my children on Twitter and Facebook rather than doing the kinds of things I was doing as a child. What do you think?