“Social media is encouraging us to compare our lives, rather than enjoying what we are,” Bill Murray claims. It’s no surprise that everyone feels sad.” Social networks are ubiquitous – nothing appears to be wrong on the surface. The appealing user interface conceals a slew of techniques and procedures designed to keep people interested and involved. These systems were created by software architects who had a thorough grasp of human psychology and behaviour. Social networks exploit a fundamental aspect of human survival — the urge to form groups, interact, and cohabit with others. Social media is tearing the social component of human existence apart by separating communication, understanding, and togetherness (Palihapitiya). The digitization of our life via free centralized platforms that profit from human attention has resulted in a host of societal ills such as addiction, behaviour manipulation, and misinformation.
Addiction is one of the earliest and most obvious problems with social media. It is designed to make people addict to it and gain money from it. The “feed” is a continual source of information about friends’ posts, reposts, subscribed groups, and ad material. The algorithm selects information based on how it is worthy and scarce. To keep the user interested, streaks of uninteresting material are intertwined with appealing messages, and the expectation of another jackpot is what makes social media feeds addicting yet extremely subtle in their impact (Kruger). According to the paper “A Study of Components Of Behavioural Addiction To Social Media Use In Current Generation Of Pakistani Youth,” social media produces behavioural addiction comparable to that of pharmacological substances (Mazhar et al). Researchers discuss and compare human behaviour changes to classic addiction classification factors such as “Conflict, Mood Modification, Relapse, Salience, Tolerance, and Withdrawal” (Mazhar et al). Because of their frequent usage of Facebook, the majority of participants in the research had all six traditional classical addition characteristics (Mazhar et al). The platform is easy access to a multitude of information makes it incredibly difficult to avoid using it; regular mobile phone notifications and email reminders of missed events keep users hooked.
Another source of worry is that social networks may impact behaviour. The platform is powered by the collective attention of its users. It is in the platform’s best interest to learn as much as possible from its users’ behaviours, anticipate their behaviour, and adjust the material to their preferences. “Likes” are a universal measure that indicate what a person prefers; seeing but not liking a post indicates indifference. Researchers utilized personal attributes and social media activity histories to develop behaviour models in “Private Traits and Attributes Are Predictable from Digital Records of Human Behaviour” (Kosinski et al). “We show that a broad variety of people’s personal traits, ranging from sexual orientation to IQ, can be automatically and reliably inferred from their Facebook Likes,” they write in the paper’s conclusion (Kosinski et al). Their dimension reduction model was able to determine if the individuals were content with life or emotionally stable, as well as whether they were introverts or extraverts (Kosinski et al). According to the researchers, as this information is “inferred” from the user, it is not legally obliged to get individual agreement or warn the users (Kosinski et al). In terms of behaviour modification, a data scientist says in a large-scale research titled “The Spread of Emotion via Facebook” that the social networking platform may influence its users’ moods (Kramer). The study discovered a statistically significant correlation between exposure to what the scientists refer to as an “emotional post” and the users’ future conduct in response to said information (Kramer). Furthermore, the text emphasizes that emotions can be repressed or negatively impacted by the usage of “Negative words” (Kramer). On a worldwide scale, the algorithms harvest as much wealth as possible from human attention. These activities will, sooner or later, alter how humans behave and interact with one another. In an interview, Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook growth executive, claimed, “Your actions, you don’t realize it, but you are being trained.” It wasn’t on purpose, but you now have to determine how much you’re ready to give up” (“Money as an Instrument of Change”).
Many social media users are oblivious to their addiction since they are “in the cycle” – social media has become a reality. As people continue to check for changes, like other users’ postings, and share photographs, their behaviour becomes the norm. In some aspects, their behaviour is spontaneous, and it is impacted by the structure of social networking sites. Some human sociology specialists publish their study on the harmful effects of social media in the intention of assisting those who are inadvertently dependent on the internet. They conduct statistical causality studies on a huge number of people, frequently in the hundreds of thousands. Nonetheless, some critics maintain that social media platforms are purposefully created to be addicted. They claim that many publications regarding social media addiction are fabricated and designed to attract users with appealing titles.
To conclude, social networking sites are none short of fantastic. They can communicate with anyone at any time. Although society had altered and adapted to new technology, basic unconsciousness of humanity had not. We still prioritize the prize above all else, and we are being tricked by receiving it for nothing. The cost we pay on the other hand is in a significant amount. Freedom of knowledge, regardless of its accuracy, scepticism of established views, and privacy are what propels human development ahead. We lose some of our ability to advance and develop as a result of social networks. Instead, we get addiction, hyper-personalized information, censorship, and constant monitoring of our every action. The flaws are not obvious at the present since they do not have immediate consequences. Social networks already have a worldwide footprint and control over information. As people become more reliant on them, their negative side effects will affect the great majority of the population, irreversibly affecting future generations.
Mazhar, Nauman, et al. “A Study of Components Of Behavioral Addiction To Social Media Use In Current Generation Of Pakistani Youth.” The Professional Medical Journal, vol 27, no. 08, 2020.
Palihapitiya, Chamath. “Money as an Instrument of Change.” YouTube, Stanford Graduate School of Business, 17 Nov. 2017, youtube.com/watch?v=PMotykw0SIk.
Kosinski, Michael, et al. “Private Traits and Attributes Are Predictable from Digital Records of Human Behavior.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 110, no. 15, 2013.
Kramer, Adam. ”The Spread of Emotion via Facebook” Facebook Research, 16 May 2012, research.fb.com/publications/the-spread-of-emotion-via-facebook/.
Kruger, Daniel. “Social Media Copies Gambling Methods ‘to Create Psychological Cravings.’” IHPI News, 8 May 2018, ihpi.umich.edu/news/social-media-copies-gambling-methods-create-psychological-cravings.