“A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.” — The Handmaid’s Tale
Facebook is addictive, and not just in a figurative way. So, when I appraised the significance of its presence in my life and why I squander so much time on it, the results weren’t that surprising.
Not long ago, when sheer angst and inferiority complex consumed me, I retreated to Facebook, hoping a fair share of “dank memes” would lighten my days. Self-loathing can be crippling and I quickly realized that witnessing others graduate or getting engaged or landing that lucrative job, was just a disastrous recipe for the commencement of my downward spiraling into depression. Call me jealous, call me bitter, but watching others succeed while I felt nothing but deficient and insecure, was like a slap to a sore face.
Further analysis of this matter suggested three principal reasons why Facebook was like deadly drugs to me:
- Casual stalking — because I unfollow most of my “friends” unless I sincerely want to stay up to date with a pal.
- Memes — dank, doggo and dank-doggo memes are vital.
- News and happenings — updates on news, business reports, new opportunities or eye-catching events.
All important, but nothing I can’t live without. Hence I clicked on that “Deactivate” button.
“Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum.”
You may be wondering what makes Facebook so habit-forming, so, allow me to skim you through its science and maybe you too can build a defense mechanism against it.
Former president of Facebook — Sean Parker digressed from his subject matter in an interview for Axios and candidly criticized the thought process in the making of this monstrous site. He admitted to Facebook being tailored to be addictive, period. Before dissecting Parker’s statement, let’s discuss a study published in Psychological Reports: Disability and Trauma; it sheds light on the emulating effects of Facebook and narcotics to the human brain.
Facebook gratifies our social needs with its deceivingly innocuous features like “Like”, “Comment” and “Share” and that feeling of satisfaction is similar to when we eat something delicious, have sex or abuse substance (cocaine to be specific). It all boils down to the stimulation of dopamine during times of indulgence and it’s extremely addictive! So, we aren’t addicted to Facebook, per se, rather we’re addicted to the “dopamine hit” administered by a heightened “Like” count on our posts.
Another research journal titled Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, points to the possibility of said “dopamine hit” just by looking at the Facebook application on your phone. This is reinforced by B.F. Skinner’s Operant Conditioning psychological and behavioral study, that analyzed the metric of animal behavior based on rewards and punishments. The experiment was orchestrated on lab rats and it deducted three responses that follow a behavior, one of which is “Positive Reinforcement”. This, in essence, means instilling a certain behavior out of a habit as consequently, the result is positive. Operant Conditioning with respect to the aforementioned rush of ecstasy induced by the Facebook logo alone, can be illustrated in the form of notifications of “Likes”, “Comments” and “Tags” that await just a click away.
Now, let’s shuffle back to what Parker had to say. His condemnation insinuated Facebook as a depo for dopamine junkies, where “Likes”, “Comments” etc. are dealt like drugs. On a much serious note, he stressed how Facebook exploits the vulnerability of human psychology posed by the need for validation, social acceptance, popularity, and FOMO, amongst other, more deeply rooted psychological variables like (in my case) self-inflicted misery. The fact that it’s free, easy to access and incessantly keeps updating for ease of use, doesn’t help much either. However, like every dire situation, here too lies a silver lining. Facebook Addiction Syndrome (FAD)(that’s the scientifically derived term) is not acute whatsoever and can easily be rehabilitated from.
My takeaway from this experience is learning to filter the usefulness of Facebook from its toxicity. Needless to say, it’s the biggest network of humans in the world and it brandishes both the positives and negatives of its 2 billion users. After all, we are accountable to a degree of blame for this. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an anti-Facebook evangelist of any sort, but, for starters, let’s tone down on oversharing every municipal detail of our life because that’s immensely irrelevant. Admittedly, I am yet to bode sayonara to my demons, but at least I know I can survive without impulsively checking my newsfeed and stalking people who are excelling in their endeavors.
I am Nusrat and I have just recovered from a lethal Facebook overdose.
PS: While researching for this piece, I discovered that Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t, in fact, use Facebook. He has a dedicated team of a dozen employees that keeps his account in-check. The dealer never consumes. He’s like the pied piper guiding us, the rats in Skinner’s experiments, to God knows what. How’s that for an analogy?