February 03, 2011, 5:16 PM — A new study claims that online searches including the words "Facebook" and "addiction" are far outnumbering "addiction" searches related to sex or cigarettes.
The Internet Time Machine, which analyzes Internet keyword trends, reports that "Facebook addiction" is one of the "top ranked digital niches for addiction."
As ITM explains, "The rise of social media and the fear/need to be in constant contact with status updates and tweets has created a problem for people with addictive personalities. The fact that accessing Facebook is so easy on mobile or tablet devices only feeds the addiction. New TV sets are being sold now with Facebook and social media widgets built into the remote control. The need to be updating and 'in a loop' is growing ever more important as websites and people flood social media with messages, drowning out personal accounts and people's interests."
ITM doesn't supply raw numbers for its study (at least on the page linked above; they may be available to paid ITM members, of which I'm not one), but Digital Trends' Jeffrey Van Camp reports that in recent days, the words "Internet Facebook addiction" have been searched for 121.8 million times by people around the world.
A quick look at Google Trends shows that searches for "Facebook addiction" have climbed steadily since the summer of 2008, when they first appeared on Google's trend radar screen.
Looking at what Google Trends shows for "sex addiction," you see that searches have remained at a relatively stable level since 2004, with the exception of a few spikes. The biggest jump in "sex addiction" searches came in August 2008, when actor David Duchovny checked into rehab for sex addiction.
But when you put the charts together, you get an entirely different picture:
That little red line you see is "Facebook addiction" searches, and it's clearly dwarfed by searches for "sex addiction."
Until I see better data, I'll remain skeptical of ITM's claim, thank you. Based on the Google Trends data above, it appears the world has its addiction priorities in order. As for me, I'll take sex over Facebook any day. Theoretically, at least.
Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.