Social Media

How you got addicted to social media?

Do you know that in the current era, we touch our phones around 2,600 times on average. In a day. Not only this, according to research, after the Covid-19 pandemic, an average India has screentime of 7 hours in a day. It means that we look at this for 7 hours every day. At times scrolling social media, watching videos on YouTube, or watching films on Netflix. Anything. If you are wasting 7 hours on it, not only does it affect the rest of your life, on your studies, job, business, hobbies, but it affects your mind also. If you take the phone away from some people, they start getting irritated. They get restless. And some people experience stress. There is no doubt that this has become an addiction. But very few people talk about it. come let’s find out the science behind this addiction. The impact it has on your life, and most importantly, what can be the possible solutions? “Sounds, animations, endless content, notifications…” “It really became this constant bombardment of the highlight of everyone else’s life.” “Lifestyles matter, you see, vacation destinations matter, fashions, manners of speech, ways of engagement.” “The rewards of social media activate the dopamine reward system of the brain.” “I think we’re living inside of 2 billion Truman Shows.” “This is a checkmate on humanity.” Friends, you won’t believe this, but social media addiction can actually be compared to the addictions to cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and gambling. It sounds really weird. Because cocaine and social media are two very different things. Though they are vastly different, but the addictions that you’ve developed, can be compared to quite an extent. For any addiction, your body follows a set pattern, known as the dopamine pattern. First, let’s try to understand what dopamine is. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced in our brain. This is the chemical formula. A benzene ring with two hydroxyl groups at the side, and an amine group is attached to an ethyl chain. A neurotransmitter is tasked with sending messages between one part of the brain to another. Act as a signal. For example, oxytocin is known as the Love Hormone. It is activated during bonding in relationships. Serotonin is a mood stabilizer. It keeps you emotionally stable. What does Dopamine do? For a long time, scientists believed that Dopamine is a pleasure chemical. That when we are happy, it is because of dopamine. But it isn’t true. According to the latest research, scientists believe that the happiness that we feel, is not because of dopamine, rather it’s because of the endorphins. Endorphins work as a happiness booster and pain relievers in our bodies. Dopamine is actually connected to motivation and reward. When our mind thinks that we are about to partake in an activity where we might be happy, anticipating that, our dopamine levels rise. Let me explain this with an example. Recall the time when you were young. And used to wait for your father to come home, You knew that your father would bring chocolates for you. But you didn’t know when your father would return. Imagine that the phone rang right that moment, and your father tells you when he’d be home exactly. You received your father’s call, he is about to bring you your favourite chocolate, even though you haven’t consumed that chocolate yet, but while waiting for your father to get home, you start salivating for it. Because your brain knows the taste of the chocolate it will experience later. The chocolate is the reward, here. A reward that you will receive in the future. But in its anticipation, while waiting for that chocolate, your dopamine levels rise. Due to this, you experience excitement and happiness. There’s nothing wrong with this situation. A healthy body of a normal human works like this. Dopamine plays an important role in your motivation, memory, and learning. An optimum level of dopamine is very healthy for your body. But it shouldn’t be too high or too low. It gets problematic when you have received the reward and your brain reduces the dopamine transmission. It takes it below the baseline. And when you get a repeated exposure of the same thing, it creates a Chronic Dopamine Deficit State in your brain. When the dopamine is consistently at a low level, due to this, you can’t experience pleasure at the same level. You can’t experience happiness the same way. And so to get the same level of happiness, you require even more stimuli. It might seem a bit confusing now, so let me use another example. Suppose you’ve received your chocolate, the next day, your father brings you another chocolate, and another on the third day. More chocolates follow on the fourth and fifth days, you get a chocolate every day, and so by the eighth day, by the time your father calls you, will you have the same level of excitement? Will you get the same happiness while waiting for your father? No. You were getting chocolates for the last 7 days, and so the novelty of the chocolate wore off. In psychology, this concept is known as Hedonic Treadmill. There is nothing in this world which you can consume every day, and get the same level of happiness. Imagine that you cracked IIT’s Entrance Exam. The day you get the result, the day you found out that you’ve cleared IIT, and that you can go to IIT to study, you will start dancing with happiness that day. You will call everyone to tell them the news. The next day, when you wake up, you will be very happy. You will be in a good mood the entire day. But imagine the scenario of one month later. Will you be still dancing even a month later? Because you’ve qualified for IIT? No, you won’t do that. And if people spot you doing so, people will call you crazy. The day you found out that you got admission into IIT, is the day you are the happiest. If you are still beaming with equal happiness a month later, it is not normal. The same thing can be said when you become an IAS officer. Or the Prime Minister, It is like a treadmill. You need to keep moving on it, to maintain the same level of happiness. A year after you get admission to IIT, your dream might be to become so rich that you can dine at a five-star hotel once a month. The first time you do this, there will be so much excitement. But once you become rich, and dining at five-star hotels would become routine for you, then the novelty of it would have worn off. To get the same level of happiness you would have to do something new. You will have to become richer. Or you’ll have to accomplish a new dream. The same thing isn’t limited to the achievements of your life. it is applicable to cigarettes and drugs as well. The first time a human consumes drugs, even a small amount of drugs gives them a big kick. It gives them a lot of pleasure. But eventually, he needs to consume more drugs to get the same level of kick, to get the same level of happiness. And just like that, he starts consuming a few grams of drugs, and then large amounts of drugs, and becomes heavily addicted to drugs. Because the pleasure that his brain was getting, from the said quantity of drugs, keeps on decreasing slowly. Social media’s addiction works in a similar way. When you see a notification on your phone, your brain expects a reward. Dopamine is released. When someone likes your photo, or someone left a nice comment on your photo, it makes you happy. Here, you get an instant reward. It’s like your brain writing a diary entry, “I am happy because of this thing. I will do it again.” But slowly, the excitement keeps decreasing. A mere 100 likes only 20 comments, 2 measly messages and 10 friend requests. It’s not enough, you start wanting more. And slowly, you start falling into the pit. Here, you might be wondering, of all the examples I gave now, the neurological processes in them, are the same. So why aren’t we equally addicted to everything? Why don’t we become addicted to clearing IIT? Why don’t we become addicted to making money? Why do we get addicted to things like drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, and social media? There are two main reasons for it friends, The first is the Ease of Access, and the second is speedy rewards. How easily accessible are the events? And how soon do you get rewarded for doing it? These are the two risk factors to be addicted to something. If you keep getting chocolate easily and frequently, you can definitely be addicted to chocolate as well. Sugar addiction is actually a thing. But you can become an addict to clearing IIT, because there you do not get any speedy reward. You have to work hard for years to get that reward. You can become addicted to making money, when you have the ease of access. When you have an easy way to make money. And you’re getting a speedy reward). And you’re earning a lot of money very quickly. It is the same in gambling addiction as well. The people who gamble away their money they waste their money in casinos, they have an ease of access. They know that if they go to a casino, they can win a lot of money. So they have an easy access to the methods. And then they can get rewarded instantly. There are speedy rewards. That’s why it is easy to be addicted to gambling. But to start a business, or to create wealth slowly from a job, it is not so easy to get addicted to that, it is next to impossible because there are no speedy rewards or easy access. Now, let’s look at these from the perspective of social media. Social media and your phone are very easy to access. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you simply have to pick up your phone, unlock your phone with a swipe, and with one tap, the three apps can be opened. The second thing, You get speedy rewards as well. The likes you get on your post, the comments on it, and the messages of so many people, that’s on Facebook, and then the videos that you watch on Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube, the entertainment that you get out of it, if it’s a comedy video, the resulting laughter, is a reward. Some time ago, I had made this video, YouTube versus TikTok. In it, I had told you how the app TikTok, has higher ease of access and speedy reward than other social media platforms. On TikTok, you don’t even need to search for videos. You simply need to swipe. Even if you don’t swipe, the next video will start playing on its own. And the reward is so instantaneous with a new reward every 20 or 25 seconds. That’s why apps like TikTok, are much more addictive than in comparison to Instagram or YouTube. On YouTube, the ease of access is a bit hindered because often you have to search for videos on your own. And then you have to tap on the video to play it. On TikTok, the videos play automatically as soon as you open the app. And it keeps swiping down automatically. Compare it with other activities. Suppose you want to read a book. It needs patience. Until you’ve read a few pages of the book, you won’t be rewarded. It takes a lot of time. If you want to play outside. You will have to put on a t-shirt, a pair of shorts, shoes, and then you’ll have to walk outside. There will be physical exertion on your body It reduces the ease of access further. If you want to meet with your friends, you’ll have to call them, make plans with them, you’ll have to dress up and then go out, the ease of access decreases further. Do you know what is the most worthless and dangerous thing, friends? All the social media companies have intentionally designed their app like this. They have conducted detailed studies to find out what attracts people more psychologically. Things which make people more addicted. Things that would encourage people to use their apps more. And spend more time looking at the screen, and so they used the findings to manipulate their apps. These companies saw us as prey. And laid brilliant traps for us. These professionals draw huge amounts in salaries, they conducted several high-level psychological analyses of people and surveys to find out these triggers. From the colour scheme to the layout of the buttons in the app, they have paid attention to all of it. Earlier, when you’d scroll on Facebook, eventually the newsfeed would end, after you had read the posts of your friends. But now they have added infinite scrolling. Now, you can continue scrolling, and Facebook will keep on showing you something or the other. Because their main motive here is to make you spend more and more time on Facebook. Traditionally, we have always wanted to explore things on our own. Meet new people, go to new places, learn new hobbies, gain new knowledge, but to explore something new requires patience. And is time taking. The ease of access and speedy reward that you get from your phone, is much more that’s why it is so much easier to rely on that. This social media addiction, is dangerous for your life, for a host of reasons. 


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The first and simplest reason is that you will be wasting your time. But this is only a surface-level reason. Apart from this, there’s an increase in radicalisation. If an algorithm keeps showing you things you like, then your political viewpoints are developed in an echo chamber. If you like right-wing posts, you will be shown right-wing posts only. If you like left-wing posts, you’ll be shown only that. Second, it increases insecurity and depression. When you look at the social media pages of people, they look so beautiful, when you look at them through the filters. The teenagers then start feeling more and more anxious and may eventually get depressed. Especially when they get comparatively fewer likes. If you look at Facebook’s ad, Mark Zuckerberg has built an image claiming that you introverted strangers start talking to each other on Facebook, they start messaging and then exchange phone numbers, meet in real life, they become good friends, and I think, they get married to each other in the end. Wow. Facebook is such a wonder for humanity. But Harari asked Zuckerberg, if Facebook’s role is to connect people, or if Facebook is tasked with keeping people glued to Facebook. “The practical question, for a service provider like Facebook, is what is the goal? I mean, are we trying to connect people, so ultimately they will leave the screens, and go and play football. One model would be…” What happens actually is that your real-life friends become Facebook friends, and you see their updates on Facebook and interact on Facebook, through comments and messages, and eventually, stop meeting people in real life. How many of your Facebook friends have you met in real life? Anyway, if we return to our original topic, the problem is Social Media Addiction. If used in moderation, social media can be used for good. I’m not saying that you should completely stop using social media. And my work is completely through social media. But the question is, how do we stop the addiction? The answer to it is hidden in the two factors friends, ease of access and speedy rewards. If you want to stop any addiction, then you’ll have to reduce the ease of access. And you’ll have to eliminate the speedy rewards. Today, it is so easy to log into Facebook, that you pick up the phone, unlock it, and tap on Facebook’s icon. But if it weren’t so easy would you really use Facebook so much? A simple solution is to delete all social media apps from your phone. I’m not asking you to delete your account, I’m asking you to delete the apps. If you then wish to access social media, you can do so from your phone’s browser. Or on a laptop. It will help by reducing the ease of access. It wouldn’t be as easy as it is now to open those apps. Thus, your behaviour would change. If this seems too much for you, another thing that you can do, is to turn off the notifications. With this, your mind will not be expecting a reward every minute or every hour. You will open the apps only when you want to. Actually, the solution depends on your addiction level. If you think that you aren’t very addicted to it, turn off the notifications. If you think that your addiction is turning problematic, delete the apps. If you think that you are very addicted to it, and you need to cut it out significantly, then use these apps only by private browsing. It means that whenever you log in to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you will have to enter your password every time. This would hinder the ease of access even more. The simple logic is, the more difficult the action would be for you, the easier it would be to eliminate your addiction. You’ll be able to let go of the addiction. The same thing applies to phones as well. Do you know that on my phone, the sound is never on. Irrespective of the notification, there will be no sound alerts. because I don’t want to be distracted because of the notifications, to the extent that I ignore my work and look at the phone. On average, a person unlocks their phone 110 times a day. So when I’m already going to look at it 110 times, I’ll check the notification then. This same logic can be used to control various types of addictions. If none of the shops around you sells cigarettes, and it becomes very difficult for you to buy cigarettes, or you don’t have the money to buy it, obviously, it becomes more difficult for you to be addicted to smoking. If you don’t have any means to gamble, there are no casinos around you, obviously, you won’t get addicted to gambling.