The Facebook controversy has not stopped the scroll. here’s why


While this is just the latest in a series of Facebook-related incidents that spark outrage over data privacy, content moderation and mental health issues, it does not appear to be growing. easier to disconnect.

“One of the hallmarks of drug addiction is that we continue to engage in behavior inconsistent with our values,” said Dr. Anna Lembke, professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford University. “It is quite possible that the people who are angry with Facebook and say that Facebook’s behavior is not in line with their values ​​but who continue to use Facebook very regularly are people who may indeed be addicted.”

Why is it so hard not to use the app if you have decided to be done with Facebook? Because the platform taps into our societal needs and biological motivations to keep us coming back for more, experts say.

“When you have such a profound impact on how people feel or value themselves, it will win,” said John Duffy, a clinical psychologist who practices in Chicago. “Even if you can rationally show that it’s not a good thing for me, the emotion wins.”

As strong as the pull may be, understanding how the platform draws people in can help those who want to spend less time scrolling.

Wired for likes

Beautiful faces, bright lights, an instant emotional connection – it’s hard to look away when Facebook is focused on the things humans have evolved to be drawn to, Lembke said.

“We are wired to want to connect with other human beings,” she said. So when we join in the outrage, joy, or sorrow of an intimate message, we get a surge of dopamine in the brain’s reward pathway.

Dopamine, often referred to as the “feel good” neurotransmitter, plays a role in intense impulses such as movement, motivation, addiction, and romance.

However, there can be too many good things, Lembke said.

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Where humans once had to work hard and have meaningful conversations or experiences to expand their circle, social media has made potential human interactions almost endless – and just a click away.

“Our primitive brains did not evolve to adapt to these huge surges of dopamine all at once,” Lembke said. “We have evolved for a world of scarcity and omnipresent danger. We have been programmed for natural rewards of finding food, clothing, shelter, a mate after tremendous effort, suffering and searching.”

To compensate for the overload, brains adjust by decreasing their own dopamine productions – not just to a baseline, but to a deficit that requires a return to the source of dopamine to be satisfied, Lembke said.

“With repeated exposure over time, we basically go into a state of chronic dopamine deficiency, which is akin to clinical depression,” Lembke said.

The need to check again

As if biological impulses weren’t enough to keep us hooked, social media platforms like Facebook provide plenty of social reinforcement.

It’s “as easy as wanting to be a part of the thing,” Duffy said. “The fear of missing something we have at 13, we still have at 50.”

Humans have a natural tendency to want to define themselves and where they fit into a hierarchy, Duffy said.

“Am I attractive? Do people like me? Am I invited to this thing? Those were the important things that mattered 20 years ago,” Duffy said. “Now it’s ‘OK, I posted something this morning. Do I have new subscribers, do I have likes?'”

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On social media, where new activities are popping up all the time, this desire to define oneself falls into an intoxicating cycle, he said.

“Because it’s always updated from moment to moment, it’s not like you can check in for a moment in a day and feel good, I’ve covered my Facebook angle. We need to keep checking it out.” , said Duffy.

Even when likes are low and verification leads to disappointment, social media platforms hold the promise of another chance, Duffy said.

“If you lose today, there’s this idea in the back of a lot of our minds that ‘Well I have another chance tomorrow’,” he said.

How to break up

Facebook’s pull may be strong, but there is a game plan for those who are motivated to break up.

The first step is to make cold turkey for about a month, Lembke and Duffy said.

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It may take at least that long for dopamine levels to recover, but many people don’t wait that long to see results, Lembke said.

“I always warn people that during the first two weeks they are going to feel worse before they feel better because during the first two weeks they will still be in this state of dopamine deficiency,” he said. she declared.

By week three or four, Lembke found that many people start to notice that they think less of Facebook and enjoy their other activities more.

After the month, the key is to moderate consumption, she said. This can be done by creating tech-free spaces, setting usage timers, turning off alerts, and avoiding social media apps that make you feel out of control, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or Tiktok, a recommended Lembke.

If the temptation to reconnect is too strong right after the stopwatch starts, Lembke recommended doing something that reconnects you to your body, whether it’s a walk outside or a face dip in an ice bath.

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