Are online social media sites like Facebook, Google+ and others as addictive as some drugs like meth? Yes, say an increasing number of social observers and experts. Their advice? Step away from the computer and do it now, while you still can.
Don’t get us wrong; we understand very well and appreciate the fact that we are an Internet-based publication. And while we appreciate the hundreds of thousands of daily readers we get, in no way do we believe we are feeding an addiction; rather, we see ourselves as filling a niche.
But interactive social media sites are a different Internet animal altogether, and many are beginning to see them as intrinsically harmful to society as a whole.
“It’s been called FaceCrack,” writes philosopher, author and lecturer David Rainoshek in a recent blog post. He continues:
And if you have been getting a sinking feeling when you use Facebook that you did not have as a first-time or new user… if you have a hard time with people who use it or incessantly check it (such as those endlessly posting photos of their latest meal, cat experience, new flame, new car, vacation)…
If you have been wondering if Facebook (FB) is good for you – or is good for society… or have been thinking “this has got to end,” then this blog post is for YOU.
Enter the Facebook dragon
Rainoshek argues that through social sites like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and even online legacy media companies like The New York Times, you are incessantly being fed products, services and other goods, in addition to a non-stop litany of mind-altering news, information, and inane blather that, taken in sum, amount to an overload of your brain.
Brian Young of Demand Media cites a recent study by Cornell University‘s Steven Strogatz, who claims that rather than making you seem more connected to others – co-workers, old friends, new acquaintances – social media sites actually make it harder for us to distinguish between meaningful relationships we actually cultivate in the real world and the plethora of casual relationships formed via social media.
“By focusing so much of our time and psychic energy on these less meaningful relationships, our most important connections, he fears, will weaken,” writes Young.
Another study on Facebook found that too much social media time, where you find out about how well your friends and acquaintances are doing compared to you are in life, can cause anger, envy and malcontent.
A study conducted jointly by two German universities found rampant envy on Facebook, the world’s largest social network that now has over one billion users and has produced an unprecedented platform for social comparison.
“We were surprised by how many people have a negative experience from Facebook with envy leaving them feeling lonely, frustrated or angry,” said researcher Hanna Krasnova from the Institute of Information Systems at Berlin’s Humboldt University.
“From our observations some of these people will then leave Facebook or at least reduce their use of the site,” she added.
Short-term pleasure, long-term disappointment, mind-altering experiences
Yes, but is Facebook really a mind-altering experience?
“Absolutely,” writes Rainoshek. “Significantly. It is changing the physical structure of your brain’s neural network, which even changes how you feel about yourself and other people. And in ways that may surprise and enlighten you.”
He cites evidence that shows users get a “rush” when they check their email, their social site home page, and other electronic communiques like Twitter – a rush caused by the chemical dopamine (DOPE-uh-meen), a neurotransmitter which feeds the reward-driven part of your mind.
“Basically, Facebook is to your self worth what drinking a Big Gulp of Coca-Cola is to your blood sugar levels, both short- and long-term,” writes Rainoshek. “Facebook brings you up temporarily (wow, isn’t that, and that, and that, and that, and ooooh that… interesting, shocking, stupid, funny, sad, challenging, whatever), and then drops you like a stone almost every time you log out. And the longer you are on, the more self-absorbed and worthless you often feel.”
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