This article was originally published on February 26, 2018.
Recently, I stumbled upon a talk by Chamath Palihapitiya, Founder, and CEO of Social Capital. He was a former VP of Facebook responsible for user growth. He spoke about something called dopamine feedback loop and how social media companies are exploiting the psychology of people for making a profit.
First of all, what’s dopamine?
Many of you might already know what dopamine is. Dopamine is an organic chemical that plays an important role in your day-to-day brain functions. It is a neurotransmitter which is released by neurons in your brain to send signals to other nerve cells.
Our brain has several dopamine pathways which are responsible for reward-motivated behavior. Most of the rewards regardless of small or large, increase the level of dopamine in your brain. Many of those addictive drugs do the same by increasing dopamine neuronal activity. Whenever you feel like you got a reward for your actions, you will get a dose of dopamine in your brain.
So, how dopamine-driven feedback loops work?
Have you ever posted on a social media site just for the sake of getting likes, hearts, thumbs-ups, comments, etc., from your online friends/followers? It could be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp or any other apps. If the answer is YES, it means you have been psychologically exploited by these social media sites/apps.
These hearts, likes, comments, thumbs-ups, etc., are short-term signals which your brain takes them as rewards for the action (that social media post you made) you just did. This short-term rewards will make your neurons release more dopamine and make you feel good for some time.
The more the rewards, the more we are psychologically manipulated to post again to get likes, hearts, thumbs-ups, and comments. This way, you will get trapped in this vicious cycle just like how people are getting addicted to drugs.
Social media limits human-human interaction. No civil discourse, no co-operation, misinformation, mistruth are just some of the side effects of social media. It is not limited to one country. It is a global problem. By using social media adverts and sponsored posts, bad people can now actually manipulate a large number of people to make them believe whatever he wants them to believe.
Save yourself and your family from this vicious cycle.
Whether you know this truth or not, social media companies are continuously exploiting the psychology of the mass population. Social media is ripping apart the fabric of how society works and how humans interact with each other. We might think that social media is connecting the people and bringing everyone closer. Because that’s what these social media companies want us to think.