In an unprecedented act of candor, the 38-year-old founding president of Facebook, Sean Candour, recently admitted that the social network was founded to distract us, not to unite us. He said that the thought process was to consume as much time and conscious attention of the users as possible. To achieve the goal, he explained, Facebook’s architects exploited a ‘venerability in human psychology’. He said that whenever someone likes or comments on our post or photographs, they give us a little dopamine hit. Tech companies nowadays exploit the youth by giving them a regular dopamine hit. Moreover, Smartphones and the social media platforms they support are slowly turning us all into bonafide addicts. Platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram leverage the same neural circuitry used by slot machines and cocaine to keep us using their products as much as possible.
“We get one of these little pings on our smartphones and get a little hit of dopamine as well. We get excited. And feel the anticipation. As we feel this, we want it more and more. So we spend more and more time looking at our phones.”
~ Kim Stolz
What is Dopamine and Dopamine hit?
Dopamine, discovered in 1957, is one of the 40 neurotransmitters found in our body. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry messages between neurons, nerves, and other cells of the body. Hence, dopamine inspires us to take action to meet our needs and desires. It plays a starring role in motivating behavior. It gets released when we take a bite of delicious food, after we exercise, and, importantly, when we have successful social interactions. In an evolutionary context, it rewards us for beneficial behavior and motivates us to repeat them. There are 4 dopamine pathways or connections in our brain and 3 of those are considered as reward pathways. They release dopamine in various parts of our brain and shape the activity of those areas.
Lack of dopamine can cause mental retardation, a rare genetic disease called PKU and cretinism. On the other hand, excess of dopamine can cause ADHD, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, bipolar disorders, binge eating, addiction, gambling, and schizophrenia.
This ‘feel-good’ chemical interacts with the pleasure and reward centre of the brain. Our brain gets a dopamine hit when we receive information. This process of our neurology is exploited excessively by tech companies to keep us hooked to our smartphones, computers, and other gadgets. Whenever we get a message or a like or a comment on our post, we get a dopamine hit and we want it more. Dopamine is the reason behind addictions and however, is the tool used by software companies to keep us addicted to technology
Dopamine and Technology
The big tech companies are ruling the world and we are their subjects. We don’t even know that we are being used in several ways so that some people can earn big bucks. Everyone is so engrossed in the mad rush of technology that people have no time for their near and dear ones. Almost everyone spends their majority of time with their phones, laptops, PC’s and other electronic gadgets. We are so distracted and busy with them that we forget that they were invented to save our time!
The social media apps are programmed in such a way as to keep us hooked to them. Checking their phones every few minutes has become a habit of most of the people. Ramsay Brown, a neuroscientist, says that any programmer with the knowledge of how the human brain works can easily build software to get the user addicted to it. So indirectly, we are being programmed to get addicted to social media sites.
Former Google product manager, Tristan Harris revealed how the social media sites are designed to regularly give us a dopamine hit and make us crave for more. When someone posts something on any social media platform, the person gets a feeling of reward on receiving views, likes, and comments on it. The time of delivery of these responses are controlled by the companies to keep us checking it, again and again, to see how many new likes and comments the post got. Some of the responses are intentionally held up for some time and then delivered simultaneously to the user. Seeing numerous likes and comments together gives the person a bigger dopamine hit.
In today’s modern world, people are judged by the brands of the gadgets they possess. There is a mad race for advanced technology. The devices made to save time are taking up all the time. Even in get-togethers, people, though sitting in a group are busy with their smartphones. The addiction to smartphones and the social media apps available on them is spreading like a forest fire. However, everyone is trapped in the clutches of social media fever. Whenever a post gets a response, the user gets a dopamine hit, and the brain signals for more. When the post gets old and responses cease to come, the person is obliged to upload a new post and this cycle continues. This is known as a feedback loop and it develops into addiction in no time.
The feedback loop is the major reason behind the constant checking of mobile phones for social media updates. It is all a big game in which the users, particularly the youth, are the pawns. The youth of not only of our country but all over the world are obsessed with social networking and the mysteries of the web. Teenagers and adolescents are the biggest audiences for these tech companies. Continuous exposures to these sites have several negative impacts on the youth.
The wrong social distancing
There is a common saying that the growth in communication technology has turned the whole world into a village. Hence, Everyone is ‘closer’ to each other and distances mean nothing now. But How far is it true? Just a tiny bit. It is correct to say that video conferencing and texting have negated vast distances between people. But the users tend to become mechanical or rather robotic, busy with their own selves and smartphones. What about the relationship gaps in families and friend circles?
Not long ago a person was considered popular if he had several friends and acquaintances. Now the only concern is to gain as many followers as you can on Instagram and TikTok. People no longer care about their loved ones who might need them. Everyone knows what is happening 250 miles away but they do not even know the names of their neighbors. In addition, Fake followers and profiles make rounds while no one cares to sit and talk peacefully for some time. If you can’t take out time for your parents and siblings from your ‘busy’ lives then the price of this technological development is too high.
Hazards of this addiction
Our best tools these days are the most potent weapons against us, our lifestyles, and society as a whole. The advanced society has so many risks that just a click can bring about someone’s downfall. There are great rewards on offer but there are no secrets to be kept. The very same social media sites which we use so fervently leave us no privacy. Every message and picture is available to be seen by someone who has the required know-how. These companies read our private chats so they can understand us better and display content which is more to our taste.
There have been several cases of leaked profiles from Facebook and recently from Zoom, who shared millions of users’ data on the dark web. People get so obsessed with these apps and several games that they are willing to almost anything to get famous or to reach a certain level. Furthermore, The infamous blue-whale and momo games are proof enough of the danger posed to the teens and the youth. Recently, TikTok is being discussed across the country with people demanding a ban on it. Apps like this give freedom to zealots to promote and publish content that promoted violence and spreads hatred on the grounds of gender or religion. The boys’ locker room is another episode that highlighted the threat of this addiction for the youth.
In the essence of Technology addiction
The youth has the future of mankind in their hands and hence they must be sensible enough to know what is good and how much is good for them. Technology and development are inseparable entities. Therefore, The latest apps will come every week and they must be used to grow but not to be used extensively. We must remember who we are and the responsibilities we have as a son, a daughter, a father or mother, and as a citizen. There is always a choice that rests with us. Everything comes down to our decisions. So will you work towards a better version of yourself or be satisfied with a little dopamine hit?
Every secret of my soul, every experience of my life, every quality of my mind, is written large in my works