Last week, I revealed some of my struggles with Facebook and the (seemingly) miraculous ways my life improved after I deleted the app from my phone.
A few weeks on from that momentous decision, I’m still riding high. I feel happier, less-anxious and more connected with the world around me. I know I’ve made the right decision for me, and it’s completely changed my perspective on social media; but that got me thinking — if Facebook is that toxic, why are we still using it?
Facebook Keeps You Addicted
It seems like we rely on Facebook for more and more aspects of both our social and professional lives.
Though I would love nothing more than to rip my profile off the site (middle finger soaring), I can’t do that. My career depends on Facebook and I rely on it for marketing, advertising and reaching new customers. More than that, I’m an expat, so I have no choice but to use Facebook to keep up with the friends and family that I left behind.
Facebook keeps us addicted, but it goes way beyond advertising or keeping up with your 4th grade bestie.
Operant conditioning is the key reason we get so hooked on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and even Twitter. Almost every major social media platform uses it, and it’s based on the scientific principle of variable rewards, which rewards the actions of users but a bit randomly.
This type of conditioning is designed by creating habits that are based around a series of triggers and desired behaviors. Facebook keeps you logging in because you need to keep seeing how many “likes” you have or how many new friend requests are waiting for you. After coming back a number of times, Facebook becomes a habit and — like second nature — you find yourself checking your phone every morning, just like clockwork.
There’s a number of other ways Facebook keeps you on the hook too, some more malicious than others.
It provides that validation you so desperately crave.
Humans crave validation. That’s just the way we were made. When we put something out into the universe, we want to know that it’s seen and more than anything we want to know that it’s loved or even “liked” by the masses.
Getting that numeric quantification that Facebook likes provide feels nice, and the visual feedback it provides feels even nicer to our simple little chimp brains.
We all know that feeling of missing out on the exciting things that are going on in the lives of our friends. Facebook relies on this FOMO to keep you addicted to the platform.
It’s human to want to be a part of things and it’s even more human to be curious. This condition keeps us looking and scrolling, searching and creeping as we desperately try to make sure we aren’t missing out on any of the “good stuff”.
It gives you audible feedback.
While I usually keep my phone on silent, it was impossible not to pick it up on the rare occasion I heard that Messenger bubble ping.
You may not notice it, but the sounds that we hear whenever we get a Facebook notification are designed intentionally to get you to engage with the platform.
It’s kind of like a dog whistle. When you hear that high-pitched ding, you know there’s going to be a reward waiting for you on the other end. Your heart races. You pick up the phone. *Gasp*. It’s true. Someone loves your picture. Your place in the universe is affirmed.
Facebook notification sounds (including those of Messenger) are designed to increase anticipation and anxiety, which makes the whole process intoxicating and addictive. That’s no mistake. Developers have spent hours putting together the most addictive sounds, and use only the ones which are most likely to leave you reaching for the phone or the keyboard.
It forces you to become an investor.
The most addictive quality of Facebook, perhaps, is the way it forces you to become an investor in their platform. The more you create on the platform, the more emotional investment you have in it.
I can’t tell you how many times I hovered over “Permanently delete my account.” Time and time again I’ve dug to the bottom of my settings, prepared to make the final cut when I’ve been stopped dead in my tracks.
What about all those pictures from summer vacation of days gone by? What about all those pictures of old me? Happy me? Me with friends and family that are no longer here?
Facebook can quickly become your life mapping app and that’s intentional. The more you put onto the platform, the less likely you are to walk away.
It’s time to trade in the tech for better techniques. by: E.B. Johnson Let’s start by admitting the obvious: our digital addiction is bad. Really, really bad. There’s not a single aspect of your life that isn’t somehow impacted by the digital revolution and - chances are - your smartphone is within arm’s reach right now.