Although many people already suspected as much, a new survey from consumer electronics site Retrevo seems to confirm that social networks display many addictive qualities. Further, the survey of 1,000 U.S. adults who use social networks showed just how addictive they may be: among the more interesting results, 30% of Facebook and Twitter users said they check their accounts every time they wake up during the night, and 7% said they would check their messages during sex (given the option).
Setting aside the mechanical challenges involved in this scenario (I'm thinking of George Costanza trying to combine sex, food, and TV on Seinfeld), the fact that some of the respondents were probably joking, and the inaccuracies involved in any such survey -- on a serious note these figures suggest the incredibly psychological appeal of social networks.
Actually, this isn't the first survey to square off sex and the Internet. In December 2008, a survey of 2,119 U.S. adults by Harris Interactive and Intel found that 65% of respondents "feel they cannot live with Internet access," with 46% of women and 30% of men saying they would rather go without sex for two weeks than give up Internet access for the same length of time.
Returning to the Retrevo survey, it seems there is a spectrum of addictive behavior around social network use: another 17% of respondents said they sometimes check their social network profiles when they wake up during the night. Edging closer to normality, 53% of respondents said they immediately log on to check their social network profiles as soon as they wake up.
As far as the Facebook Costanzas, it's pretty impressive that sex temporarily takes a back seat to Facebook for 70 out of 1,000 respondents, and at first blush (get it?) this high-engagement activity should be a natural ad medium. But advertisers beware: to my mind, the intensity of engagement also suggests advertisers are playing with dangerous, primal emotions, and risk a huge backlash if ads disrupt the social network experience. In short, don't ever get in the way of something that's better than sex.