Why Are Social Network Websites So Addictive?
In 2020, people are devoting more time on their smartphones than actually talking to one another in real life. You’ll hardly find any adult who is not on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or WhatsApp. And with people spending so much time indoors due to pandemic, it seems virtual world has taken over our lives. What is the reason that we are so addicted to social networks? The answer is much more complicated than you would realise.
Social media companies use techniques that encourage addictive behaviours.
Oxytocin is a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter, and is produced in the hypothalamus portion of the brain. Oxytocin (also known as cuddle chemical) is human stimulant of empathy, generosity, loyalty and, trust. When we hug or kiss a loved one, oxytocin levels drive up. Even playing with your dog can cause an oxytocin surge. In fact, the hormone plays a huge role in pair bonding.
Now, in ten minutes of social media time, oxytocin levels can increase as much as 13%. Not only that, research has shown that when subjects were exposed to positive and funny content on social media- results showed lowered stress levels, feelings of love, trust, empathy, generosity. So it’s a fact that social media comes with heightened feelings and it’s also really hard to stop wanting more of it.
Essentially, social media companies are trying to tap into human behaviour and manipulate it. They promote practices that exploit human psychology or brain physiology to grow their businesses.
Social media companies use the following four techniques to keep users engaged with their platforms:
1- Infinite scroll : The process of automatically loading and displaying additional content (music or video) that the user has prompted to play, when a user approaches or reaches the end of loaded content.
2- Elimination of stopping points: Loading and displaying more content into a content feed than the typical user can scrolls through in a small amount of time. This makes people lose the track of time and they end up spending more time on social networks than they thought.
3- Autoplay: Automatically playing music or videos without an express or prompt, by the user to tempt them into watching it. This is also a convenient way for companies to promote sponsored content on their platforms.
4- Likes, tokens and other rewards: Providing a user with an award for engaging with the social media platform (such as a badge or other recognition of a user’s level of engagement with the platform).
Social media can gnaw at our insecurities and suck us in and we find ourselves stuck in the sink hole which keeps draining ourselves of our mental energy. It can left you depressed, dreaded with social anxiety or ecstatic and more informative. But it’s upto you how do you see it and use it.
Smartphone and social media are an addiction.
When we describe addiction, we express it in terms of compulsive behaviour that may lead to a negative outcome. Now, addiction is a slow-poison and takes time to come into effect. But we don’t even realise when we got addicted. Similarly, getting out of an addiction will take time. But you will eventually get out of it, without even realising it.
Best way to resist your cravings, is to redirect them.
You don’t get rid of bad habits, you replace them with good ones. You will feel the urge to check your smartphone for once but realise that nothing substantial is happening on social media. And instead concentrate on reading the next page of the book you just bought. Addictions are like fire, more you’ll feed them, more they’ll surge.