Why we crave digital distractions?
Unlike real life that can be boring and monotonous, on the internet, even if you want nothing, you can always get something. When we are bored, lonely and feel like we’re unable to make a dent in the world like we want to, we seek to distract ourselves with the enjoyment and fun the virtual world promises.
Wired to Connect:
What separates humans from animals is our desire to belong, our desire to matter and to make an impact in the world. We do that by connecting, by communicating and showcasing the unique gifts we have to offer.
Add technology which has connectivity in its DNA and we are immediately intrigued. The promise of its potential to spread our message and share our ideas is vast. And that’s how we begin our relationship with technology.
The lure of social network is in our primal longing for connection. Social media exploits the basic instinct of human beings to belong, to matter and to leave a legacy.
How Big Tech is engineering addiction:
While making our world to smaller by connecting us and enabling humanity by increasing our productivity, efficiency and awareness through information, technology and social media do a lot of good. But, what is not public information is that Big Tech is creating devices, apps and platforms that are becoming ubiquitous in our lives and pervading our day to day existence. Here’s how they are engineering addiction by hiring attention engineers, neuroscientists and social psychologists to manipulate, persuade and capitalize on our eye balls and our attention to increase their bottom line.
Rapid feedback, the unpredictability of responses and notifications makes Tech very hard to resist. Where else would us get badges of pride for maintaining our daily streaks other than on Snapchat? Where else but on our smart phone can we find something even we don’t have anything to search for?
Like sky miles and royalty memberships of airlines and hotels, smart phones have figured out a way for us to keep showing up to our devices and showing our solidarity to them 24/7.
‘I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mis-truth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.’
~ Chamath Palihapitiya, Former VP of Facebook
How Social Media Addiction works:
- It feels empowering and participatory.
- It feels like it enhances our expression of individuality.
- While TV makes us inert, social media makes us form our own opinions.
- It lets us speak our mind via opining on our (Facebook) walls and our Instagram and Snapchat stories.
- We can signal goods to show our standing in society. Just look at Kylie Jenner’s Instagram feed if you want to know what I mean.
- It meets the unsatisfying need of the endless scroll, unlike books that have a last page. Its designed to be addictive in the same way Netflix and YouTube have autoplay functionality in them. And how Snapchats have streaks to make people keep posting stories daily to maintain their streak.
- Young adults post sexually arousing selfies, making them part of the thirst trap excitement.
How Gaming Addiction works:
The League of Legends is a game that is labeled as the Electronic heroine of China because of the way its played in a compulsive manner in video game cafes around the country. Teenagers in America are spending 11.3 hours per week on video games.
Good social games teach strategies like cooperation, concept building and helping to clean and saving cities in large universes.
But, sustained violent video gaming of games, like Team Deathmatch in Call of Duty: Black Ops, leads to decreased sensitivity, increased aggressive behavior and worst of all moral disengagement with society.
Games are designed by giving us goals to reach to. Engineers and app developers tread a delicate balance between making it very hard to cross each level, but rewarding us just before we’re about to give up.
When games lure us with the promise of social camaraderie with anyone, anywhere on the planet and getting rewarded for developing skills, where is that readily available in real life??
How Dopamine Addiction works:
TVs are inert objects, they don’t give us a response to our stimulation. But a personal device like an iPad or an iPhone makes our relationship interactive. It makes us feel like we’re in control.
When we send out messages, write on our walls and post pictures with filters, we live in anticipation because of the promise of a response. And, that’s our stimuli. The reward circuits in our brain is programmed to thrive on that stimuli, which gives us a shot of dopamine (the feel good hormone) high whenever we see a notification, an alert or a beeping red light.
Understanding Down Regulation:
Down regulation is a phenomenon that occurs when there is a drop in dopamine receptors in the reward processing area of the brain.
This causes a decrease in our ability to feel pleasure, resulting in a need to seek more stimulation. And that keeps us scrolling endlessly, refreshing aimlessly to see if we can bring back some of those feel good hormones.
Technology is here to stay, what do we do about it? Be a smart consumer by being intentional about our time and use of it.
* * *