3 reasons we are unknowingly addicted to social media 

The biggest source of courage for the fearful is someone else’s fear. (Source : Narcos, Netflix)

Now that I have your attention, let me give 3 actual reasons.

# 1 By the way if it wasn’t clear, first reason is human beings are not as rational as you think they are, they easily fall to cognitive bias 

Ok let’s draw a parallel. Did you know what is common between Gambling and Facebook? In gambling, you play a hand, and almost immediately you have a random set of results, this result “always” has a possibility of you winning. Best thing is, sometimes you might even win big. However those who play long enough realise that most people lose more than they win. People are still willing to put more bets, making gambling dangerously addictive. Facebook and some other social networks on the other hand, rely on a different kind of reward – Social validity and likeability. Studies after studies have proven that what matter to us the most is our relationships, the closeness, and quality of our relationships. The busy lives we lead often mean we cannot give enough time to many of those relationships that matter. We came up with a solution, we digitised it. Whatsapp, Facebook have become more like religions. You upload a picture or a status update on Facebook. The network effect ensures that a set of random outcomes start showing immediately. People “like” you and people comment. The odds of that happening are easily higher than you winning on a slot machine. It’s harder to be liked in real life than on Facebook, and many have found a convenient shortcut. I’m just saying! 

#2 social networks are skilfully designed as habit forming products

A business insider article cites this book and explains further. The book “how to build habit forming products” explains how Facebook or the likes thereof create associations with human behaviour. Facebook has created association with boredom. Whoever gets bored can alleviate the itch by scrolling through their newsfeed. There you are, Hooked. Every now and then, when you feel bored you come back, you like, you scroll and you comment. When you invest that effort, you “load a trigger”, the trigger fires when someone else likes, comments and you receive an external trigger and “pop”! that push notification takes you straight in! Isn’t that really smart and habit forming? you bet!

#3 studies have proven that social networks can be somewhat as addictive as substance abuse  – it’s worth clarifying that they are also different in many ways

Researcher Turel explains further. The Facebook “addicts” showed greater activation of their amygdala and striatum, brain regions that are involved in impulsive behavior. But unlike in the brains of cocaine addicts, for instance, the Facebook users showed no quieting of the brain systems responsible for inhibition in the prefrontal cortex.

That could be because Facebook “addiction” is fundamentally unlike substance addiction, or it could be that the study only looked at people whose daily lives weren’t much impaired by their desire to be on Facebook. 

Trick as usual folks is moderation. 


Author: Abhi Shah

Passionate business builder with background in software development, big data analytics, commercial product management including digital and mobile. Currently building machine learning and data products at Barclays PLC

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s