How Social Media is Designed to be Addictive – An in-depth Analysis

Social media is everywhere. Billions of people from all across the world, who have internet access are on some or the other social media platform. How is social media so attractive that such a huge amount of population or say almost everybody is hooked onto it? Well, there are multiple reasons that make social media addictive since studies and researches suggest that social media is primarily a tool for communication and that it is in a way ‘designed to be addictive’.

The design aspect of social media involves an understanding of a few basic technical terminologies such as algorithms, user interface design, behavioral analysis and big data. The whole look and feel of the social media websites or applications is pleasing and gives us a sense of pleasure when we state an interaction. Whenever we visit Instagram or Facebook, we look at other people’s posts and activities which are presented in such an accurate and delusional fashion that we tend to spontaneously react to them to express our opinion.

One of the main reasons behind making social media addictive is its user interface (UI) and experience (UX) which is very well designed in a way that, navigating through the apps becomes a seamless process which in turn increases the time we spend. The choice of specific type of colors, the icons, notifications tab, the like button, the hearts, the comment boxes, the messenger layouts, the logos, the structure of the apps and placement of the posts is all done through countless hours of trial and error and involves a lot of scientific and engineering experimentation.

Glamorous pictures, extravagant stories, cheesy videos, advertisements and pages make the whole collection seem informative as well as entertaining. Attach this with the method of infinite scrolling, which means that posts will load until the last post is reached. But the fact is that, there is no last post on social media since every second there is a huge amount of content being uploaded, information is supplied and we don’t even have slightest of hint that when our time gets passed and we are still scrolling through the bundle of data which seems to be entertaining and knowledge providing.

These social media apps are meant to control, or better, “high-jack” our brains into the infinite process of being liked in such a way that at a certain point in time, we have to go back and get that reward to calm ourselves. This type of behavior is controlled by a chemical called ‘Dopamine’, which is a neurotransmitter responsible to give us a sense of pleasure whenever we perform a certain activity. The compulsion factor to check out status updates or messages every now and then also takes place because of dopamine. Thus, according to many researchers, social media addiction is linked to alcohol or other drug usage as they too release dopamine which suddenly gives us that ‘kick’ of happiness which is a temporary state.

Whenever we receive likes, we go back and check that post again and again to get that sense of pleasure and tend to repeat the behavior which is linked to getting the maximum amount of appreciation. This quick fame gives us a false sense of satisfaction and thus we get hooked onto these apps.

Another reason being, the social media apps mainly earn through advertising which is dependent upon the data that is collected through our interactions. Data such as location, likes, dislikes, pictures everything is stored and with the use of specifically designed algorithms, re-manipulation is done to make us use and consume more of such content. One will be surprised to know that the various emojis and reactions which we use to express our emotions, are too recorded in the form of psychological data and can be used to display specific types of advertisements in between the posts. 

Many of the engineers who themselves are employees of these companies have stated that social media apps are made to work like slot machines, where the main goal is to seek pleasure through the game. A game which we play without even knowing that our data is being compromised and that a lot of time is literally wasted in knowing and peeping into other people’s lives.

Thus, now-a-days or from the advent of social media, many cases of depression, anxiety and anger are cropping up and yes there is a direct link. Loneliness has started to make its space more than ever, as these social media apps make us feel lonely and increase that urge to go back and check and express our views and opinions on the news that’s circulating around. I do agree that social media is extensively used to stay connected and to disseminate information but amidst all this, the human mind has lost its sense to connect and create bonds in the real world which has made miscommunication a very common phenomenon.

To conclude, there are a lot of positives of using social media but then we all should always try to understand, question and know that these are just mere tools of earning billions at the expense of people’s information and mind-numbing entertainment which is ultimately weakening the foundation for real life communication which is how communication isn’t actually meant to be.

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