“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works”Chamath Palihapitiya, former Vice President of User Growth at Facebook
Many of us post on Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and wait eagerly for the ‘Likes‘ to come in. As we see the thumbs ups or the hearts appearing, we experience a mild feeling of euphoria that increases at the same rate the ‘Like’ counter rises. If the ‘Likes’ don’t come in then people have a resulting vague sense of discomfort, anxiety, and a feeling that we have been rejected by others. Waiting to see ‘Likes’ on a personal Social Media post is in effect a cheap high and though the high is quick and seemingly harmless, it’s definitely an addiction and a very powerful one. Here is a very eye opening article on Harvard University’s Blog that examines why Social Media is absolutely addictive and is causing many problems in people and society.
I made a decision yesterday to turn off the ‘Like’ function on my WordPress blog posts. Over a year ago, I deleted my accounts on Social Media to get away from the fake madness of Facebook and Twitter. At the time when I decided to turn away from Social Media I was beginning to understand the connection between addictions and Social Media and I realized that these platforms were taking up a large amount of my time and energy, not to mention the negative effect on my emotional well being. I reached the conclusion that I was using things like Facebook to look for validation from people outside of myself. I also realized that the only person I required any kind of validation from was me, and when I learned self-love I no longer needed to turn towards other people to have a sense of personal value.
I was using things like Facebook to look for validation from other people outside of myself.
I’ve had serious addiction issues in the past with various substances and I’m no stranger to what it feels like being addicted to something. In my 20’s I had an alcohol addiction, and then in my 30’s I had a major marijuana addiction that almost ruined my life. The common opinion of weed is that it is not addictive, however though it wasn’t addictive physically for me I was definitely psychologically addicted to marijuana for 6 years. I was unable to go longer than half a day without smoking pot and it was destroying my life, and if I didn’t have access to marijuana (which was still illegal in Canada at the time), I would panic and experience extreme anxiety at the fear of being broke and out of weed. Then the immense relief and euphoria would come from getting marijuana again if I had been out for a period of time, and the cycle would repeat over and over and it did so for years. Eventually I quit using marijuana cold turkey 2 years ago, and I experienced intense withdrawal symptoms such as sweats, vomiting, nightmares, and I had to lay in bed for a solid week in a shivering daze. I also needed the time to allow my brain to heal for a few months after being continuously pickled in weed for 6 years.
Addiction doesn’t happen solely because of the substance. What’s addictive is the feedback loop in the brain that is associated with the release of dopamine when there is anticipation during the waiting to get the ‘reward’, and then the resulting experience of getting the reward. Drugs and alcohol aren’t the only things that can be addictive. Many people can get addicted to things such as shopping, gambling, sex, codependency in relationships, eating, pornography, exercise, social media, cleaning, video games T.V., etc. Basically anything where there is the expectation and anticipation of getting a reward and then experiencing the reward. Once the reward has been received, then the temporary feel good dopamine high goes away and the feedback loop begins all over again with anticipating the reward of the substance or behavior in order to get the dopamine high. It can be argued that the anticipation of the reward is the actual addiction.
It can be argued that the anticipation of the reward is the actual addiction.
This point was proven to me yesterday when I disabled the ‘Likes’ function on my WordPress blog. I realized once I turned off the ‘Likes’ function that I experienced a slightly uncomfortable and anxious feeling at not seeing the trusty ‘Like’ counter on my WordPress stats page. As a result I recognized that I needed to do some serious thinking about why I was so concerned that my blogs and posts seemed to require approval and ‘Likes’ from other WordPress bloggers in order for me to feel that my writing is valid. One thing I realized during this contemplation was that my work and writing is absolutely good enough to stand on its own without needing the validation of ‘Likes’ from other bloggers. I am by no means a professional author, however I’ve enjoyed writing my entire life. It is not my aim to make money from this blog and I do it for the enjoyment of the craft with the hopes that some of the things that I post may actually help people by sharing my story and life experiences. When we share our stories we not only heal ourselves but we also help to heal others.
This post ‘We are Quickly Becoming a Society Addicted to ‘Likes’ is the first post I will put on WordPress without the ‘Like’ function on. I wonder if I will still feel that slight discomfort of not seeing the ‘Likes’? Turning off the ‘Likes’ function on my WordPress blog has definitely been a lesson in the power of addiction and how easy it is to get addicted to something as innocent as an electronic thumbs up, and to continue remaining very aware of other things that can become quickly addictive in my life
***Edit*** I decided to turn the ‘Likes’ button back on for my WordPress blog posts. I came to the understanding that I enjoy being able to hit the ‘Like’ button on someone else’s post to show appreciation. And I also realized that if someone else enjoys my post I’m happy to get a like, and I am also happy if someone else hates my post, and would prefer to give it a thumb down. 🙂