How Facebook Is Designed To Addict Us
Articles Blog

How Facebook Is Designed To Addict Us


In December 2017, Facebook did something very
few might expect from a silicon valley environment that constantly claims to be changing the
world for the better. They posted an article on their official blog, titled, Hard Questions:
Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad For Us? In the eyes of New York times writer, Farhad
Manjoo, “[This] should be regarded as a big deal. The post stands as a direct affront
to the company’s reason for being; it’s as if Nike asked whether just doing it may
not be the wisest life goal after all, or if Snapple conceded it wasn’t quite positive
that it really was the best stuff on earth.” And though I don’t think they featured the
article prominently enough, I do commend them for openly discussing this topic, and in this
video, I’d like to do the same. Now if we go through the research, it’s
fairly easy to find scientific, peer-reviewed evidence that Facebook negatively impacts
mental health. The least flattering paper presented in the blog post [maybe zoom in
through link and dissolve into the next paper coming in] is a 2017 study that surveyed more
than five thousand people over three years, measuring self-reported mental health, physical
health, and life satisfaction. The results showed a clear association between Facebook
use, measured by likes clicked, links clicked, and status updates, and decreases in self-reported
mental health. [I see all this flashing on screen, with facebook use coming down, and
the three things coming out of it, and then the decreases coming on next to it] But I don’t want to linger too long on the
many studies that have linked social media use to decreases in well-being, dissatisfaction,
and even depression. Looking all these studies at once, the trend is clear. Scrolling through
your newsfeed all day is bound to bring you down. For me, the real question is, if all these
studies have shown that facebook can negatively impact our mental health, why do we keep using
it as much as any other site on the planet? [graphic https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/04/most-popular-websites-google-youtube-baidu/]
To me, an even more important than the question, does facebook make us sad, is, How does facebook
make us sad, and why we keep coming back for more over and over again? For the answer to this more fundamental question,
we’ll have to turn to perhaps the most intriguing recent wave of dissent against facebook. In
the past year, a number of people who actually worked for the company in its early stages
have publicly turned against the product they helped create. The most famous of this group is Sean Parker,
who was played by Justin Timberlake in the film, The Social Network, and joined facebook
in its infancy. Interestingly enough, these former employees,
in their rhetoric, often focus more on words like “addiction” or “exploitation,”
rather than “depression” or “mental health.” Rather than discussing what feelings
social media produces, they instead identify the mechanisms that keep you coming back.
Having helped create and promote the site, they’re painfully aware of the ways in which
it was designed to exploit basic human psychology. Now these concepts are absolutely essential to
understanding how Facebook subtly manipulates us, so I’d like to take a moment to flesh
them out. For those who don’t know, dopamine is the
chemical reward your brain releases for certain activities, like exercising or completing
a task at work. This is why we feel actual pleasure after going for a run or getting
a good grade on a test. But these reward centers in our brains have countless applications
far beyond exercise and hard work. This same chemical can be released by eating a slice
of pizza—again, your brain is rewarding you for finding sustenance—and the same
goes for social stimuli. According to Mauricio Delgado, psychologist at Rutgers University,
“The same brain areas [that are activated for food and water] are activated for social
stimuli,” he says. “This can be a smile, someone telling you you’re doing a great
job…or you’re a nice person, or even merely cooperating with somebody. All of these social
‘reinforcers’…show similar activity in the reward centers of the brain.” Essentially, our thousand-year-old animal
brains can’t distinguish between the social reward of getting a like on facebook and of
having someone compliment you directly to your face. So if you’ve ever wondered why facebook,
within the first week you started using it, became the first thing you typed into your
search bar every time you opened your computer, it’s these dopamine hits, these social feedback
rewards. The site provided you unprecedented spikes in these pleasurable chemicals, so
when you haven’t used it in the last few hours, your hand is subconsciously guided
to steer back to facebook and create more content, in order to seek out more dopamine.
That’s the chemical feedback loop these former facebook employees are referring to. And like with any drug, over time the pleasure
from it wanes, and while some people decide to back out and quit right there, the vast
majority engage with it more, and more and more and more in order to up their dosage. Perhaps you’ve noticed that over the years,
Facebook has been expanding the categories of notifications, and alerting of things that
you might not actually care about, like about a random friend’s status update, or a live
video stream, or a post in some group you joined years ago. Facebook has ramped up these types of notifications
over time to ensure their users get consistent dopamine hits from the site every day whether
they’re using it or not. And researchers have found that merely hearing your phone
buzz or seeing that red notification produces a dopamine rush before you even click to see
what the notification is. So what happens, in my experience, is that I’ll see the notification,
feel the satisfaction of the dopamine hit, and then click, only to find that someone
I barely know “was Live” a few hours ago, or something equally unimportant to my actual
social life. And though the feeling I get when this happens isn’t full on depression,
it’s still a profoundly new and alienating experience. Your brain is telling you, chemically,
that you’ve just received a smile from a guy across the room, or had a meaningful conversation
with a close friend, while, in reality, you really just learned that some jerk you went
to high school with is celebrating his birthday today. Now I’m no psychologist but this disconnect
between the chemical reward system in your brain and the reality of the situation seems
central to the deflating feeling Facebook can produce. [flash on screen] But I will admit, this is all just one side
of the conversation. And though I do get more uncomfortable with facebook the more I research
its effects, I personally don’t find these calls for us to completely stop using social
media very practical. Instead, I’d like to explore one final question,
Can Facebook Make Us Happy? Can it positively impact mental health if used in a conscious
and mindful manner? Well, that’s exactly what Robert Kraut’s
2016 study was all about. Taking a more complex approach, they broke facebook use down into
separate categories instead of taking the site as one uniform experience. The first
was “targeted, composed communication consisting of original text written for a specific person,
like a wall post or comment.” The second was ““one-click” communication, such
as a “like” or reaction, and the third was “composed, broadcasted communication,
like a status update, aimed at a wide audience.” Beyond this, they also differentiated between
communication with stronger and weaker friendships. Their results may not be all that surprising,
but in my opinion, this study is overwhelmingly important to consider for those who are tired
of these dopamine-driven feedback loops. Essentially, they found that targeted, composed
communication like direct messages, comments, or wall posts that actually engage someone
in conversation with people they have close ties to has a positive affect on well-being.
People engaged in this type of interaction felt they were doing a better job maintaining
their existing relationships, showing their investment in those relationships, and generally
feeling they had social support. On the other hand, more passive, “one-click
communication” such as likes or reactions were not associated with any increasing strength
of social ties. And the same goes for the “broadcasted communication”, like status
updates. These two categories didn’t give people any sense of maintaining or strengthening
relationships. In other words, the parts of facebook that
produce these quick dopamine hits and nothing else are ultimately unsatisfying, while more
direct communication can be truly meaningful. Now facebook has made a few changes to their
interface to encourage these more meaningful interactions, namely, the new comment button
under every post, and an algorithmic preference for close friends and family over news sources.
But we as consumers need to understand that the underlying system which has us coming
back for more and more and more, the notifications and their chemical associations, will never
be fully removed from the site. So if we don’t want facebook or any social media site, for
that matter, to bring us down, it’s gonna be on us to maybe turn off these unnecessary
notifications, and try to recognize the difference between these brief, fleeting dopamine hits,
and genuine, meaningful connection.

54 thoughts on “How Facebook Is Designed To Addict Us

  1. thanks to Alex Swiatek of Switech Productions for guest-editing this video, and for doing an amazing job. this one was close to my heart and definitely something that applies to all social media sites, including, well, you know…youtube. it's hard being a primate and having to deal with all these weird new forms of stimulation. as always, thanks so much to everyone who watches my videos, shares them, supports me on patreon, and adds interesting thoughts to the comments section, whether negative or positive. love to all, michael

  2. All social media platforms do the same thing and use the same tactics that Facebook does yet you don't call them out, this video is great and you proved your point but I feel as if you're specifically singling out Facebook and failing to mention things like Instagram Snapchat and Twitter. If your point of making this video is to draw people away from Facebook, I feel as if you should also mention how they should be drawn away from the other mentioned social media platforms as well.

  3. To be honest I was actually diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and major depressive disorder by the year 2014 and still I use Facebook but I try not to message people as much anymore or even do anything on it really just mainly for my musical stuff I just wish I could have more people to talk to really then just to be alone all the time :p

  4. dude putting the messenger sound in is borderline cruel, it has a pavlovian effect on me and probably many others. I get giddy and i think omg who is it what did they say

  5. I thought dopamine had been updated has a "wanting" compound, rather than a "liking/reward" substance. It's saliency first and foremost, with endogen opiate system operating the different levels of euphoria.

  6. Dopamine is the chemical that helps to seek pleasure, not the reward itself.
    anyway great effort in the video and please be more accurate next time

  7. Here's another important element: Repeated dopamine release creates strengthened "pathways" or "connections" (kind of like ruts) in our brain, these become additions. There are two variables that cause these ruts to form, one is the strength of the reward. Things with a very high reward are very addiction (heroin, cocaine). The other is thing that you can do very frequently, (check facebook, get notifications). Because social media addiction falls into this category, the strength of the addiction isn't as great as a physical addition to drugs, but you can fall into that addition much more easily and quickly because of the speed of repetition.

  8. Or maaaaybe people that have bad mental health like depression use Facebook more than healthy people.. Correlation is not necessarily causation

  9. Great job, the improvements in your editing are most certainly noticed!

    It would seem that Twitter is worse than facebook by design based on what you discussed.

  10. The whole "dopamine is the reward chemical" is not entirely true. This used to be the consensus a couple of years ago and the idea has spread since then. Later it was found out dopamine increases eg. when you SEE a pizza but not when you take a bite. So yeah, dopamine makes you do things but getting a "Like" on facebook releases opioids, not dopamine (though opioids influence how much dopamine you'll release when anticipating a "Like" in the future, for example).

  11. When I looking all over my screen for the chat head when you played the Facebook messenger ding you convinced me.

  12. I left Facebook facade 02/18, okay I had enough. Deleted my account.

    I deleted Twitter also, no more on social media facade.

    I started to live instead of watching how strangers live theirs lives.

  13. I'm only on for a few certain lucky people & cousins as i like the real time text & video. The only thing depressing is the political correct Snowflake BS the only thing exploits is the 30 day Facebook i get. Is it worth switching to WHATS-APP For a back up?

  14. i don't use facebook much but my mother does. i use tumblr mostly. i like the system since it's easy to block people and there aren't any "you would like this" posts unless it is a specific tag you chose to follow. u can also change notifications to only from people you follow which is nice. twitter sends notifications like when someone you follow likes something, which is useless information because it's not an interaction for you. it's literally showing you an interaction you were not a part of

  15. I think it's a few years ago, but I stopped using the LIKE button, if any of my friends post or link something I find interesting, or I want to show that I actually follow them properly, I leave a comment.
    This has confused the algorithm to believe me to be weird as it tries hard to "make me press the LIKE button". I adamantly REFUSE to click em! sometimes tempted, but then, I remind myself that I should just leave a comment to show that I care <3

  16. I was getting this negative feedback loop just from Imgur. It took a month or two after quitting cold turkey, but I felt a significant boost to my overall happiness and satisfaction in life.

  17. Sean Parker's seems viable to explain how much people cannot take critics anymore : We are, because of the social medias, addicted to dopamine, literally junkies of ourselves

  18. I had facebook for 9 years until February 2017 when I completely deleted it. All of my posts, likes, pictures, gone.

    And to this day, I occasionally have that same subconscious impulse to go to my search bar and type "f" for facebook every once in a while.

  19. I really do believe that Facebook also uses something that stimulates us optically – how else would you explain why simple and endless newsfeed scrolling itself is so super addictive. Even though there is nothing really interesting to find?

    Lately I noticed that a lot again, after I was long detached from Facebook simply being busy through work and even though FB seems to be dying, it is the case that every time I just go there to simply check for messages, I find myself scrolling and scrolling through the news feed for surely 10 to 20 minutes – just senselessly staring at this thing, forgetting about time and what I actually opened the page for. I mean there is absolutely nothing really important or interesting there to be found except for ads I don't look at and useless narcissistic stuff that pseudo-important people post.
    Many of my friends say the same thing. It is f'n hypnotic and I find that very concerning. I absolutely think this an effect that is implemented there on purpose, just like this ex-company member said, to consume as much of your valuable time as they can.

  20. Well I quit cigs two years ago and I just quit facebook two weeks ago 🤷🏾‍♂️ who needs it

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top