Back in the late 1960s, researcher Walter Mischel conducted an experiment that has come to be known as the “Marshmallow Test.” This test consisted of giving marshmallows to 4-year-olds, with the promise of more marshmallows to come if they could delay eating the first for 15 minutes. Those who resisted the sugary treat were shown to do well later in life, while those who failed to resist were more likely to suffer from lower test scores, even issues of drug dependency.
More than 40 years later, Facebook has proved to be an even sweeter marshmallow to its millions of users than any puffed confection Mr. Mischel handed out.
While beginning to write this piece, I couldn’t resist the temptation to check my own Facebook profile.
Has anybody commented on my latest status update? Has Jenna from high school accepted my late-night friend request? I can just click right over and find out, but I know once I do I’ll end up spending the rest of the afternoon playing Scrabble and commenting on tagged photos.
I’m not alone with this struggle. Comb through any random Facebook page and you’ll find people around the world updating statuses from their offices, from classrooms, even from behind the wheel. The deferred rewards of keeping one’s job, learning arithmetic, or even staying alive are no match for the compound-worded monster.