Addictive-like use of social networking sites tied to poorer sexual function
Problematic or an addictive-like use of social networking sites (SNS) tend to lead to sexual difficulties in both males and females, suggest the results of a recent study.
“The use of SNS sometimes acquires an addictive-like quality, often referred to as problematic use of SNS,” the researchers said. “This condition overlaps with problematic (addictive-like) use of smartphones, as the latter are commonly used for online social networking in addition to other activities that may gain addictive-like qualities.”
Lead researcher Vanessa Fuzeiro from the Ispa – Instituto Universitário, Lisbon, Portugal, and her team sought to determine whether sexual difficulties were associated with problematic use of SNS and smartphones. They analysed data from four studies conducted in Portugal between October 2019 and December 2021.
Overall, 946 women and 235 men provided data on sexual function and problematic use of smartphones, while 536 women and 194 men had available information on sexual function and problematic use of SNS. [J Sex Med 2022;19:1303-1308]
The researchers assessed female sexual function using the Female Sexual Function Index and the Female Sexual Distress Scale – Revised (FSDS-R), and male sexual function with the International Index of Erectile Function. They also measured the problematic use of smartphone and SNS via the Smartphone Addiction Scale – Short Version (SAS-SV) and the Internet Addiction Scale (IAT) specifically adapted to online social networking, respectively.
Meanwhile, participants rated their symptoms of problematic use of smartphones and SNS, as well as their sexual function.
Problematic SNS use in women was associated with lower sexual arousal (r, ‒0.22), difficulties lubricating (r, ‒0.13), difficulties having orgasm (r, ‒0.20), sexual dissatisfaction (r, ‒0.23), coital pain (r, ‒0.19), and greater sexual distress (r, 0.33).
In men, problematic SNS use was associated with lower erectile function (r, ‒0.26), lower desire (r, ‒0.17), intercourse dissatisfaction (r, ‒0.20), overall sexual dissatisfaction (r, ‒0.30), and more difficulties having orgasms (r, ‒0.20).
Associations between sexual function and problematic smartphone use showed the same trend for both sexes but were generally weaker and became nonsignificant in most cases after controlling for the problematic use of SNS.
“Addictive-like use of SNS might be a risk factor for sexual difficulties,” the researchers said.
Although this study is innovative and well-powered to reveal associations between poorer sexual function and addictive-like use of new technologies, caution should be practiced in interpreting the results because of the lack of representativeness in the sample.
“Problematic use of SNS was associated with male and female sexual difficulties,” the researchers of the current study said. “This corroborates previous research.”
Furthermore, a 2020 study suggested that the use of the internet gaming disorder (IGD) criteria was a promising approach for measuring problematic use of SNS and online pornography (OP). [BMC Psychiatry 2020;20:318]
“Contrary to the problematic use of SNS and OP, IGD was included in the new edition of the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders as a condition for further study,” the authors noted.