Why is Addiction to Social Media Becoming a Major Concern?
It’s no secret how addictive social media apps can be, since seeing people hunched over their phones scrolling and scrolling throughout the day has become a common sight. But is this addiction to social media apps deliberate?
Aza Raskin, a former Jawbone and Mozilla employee weighed in on the subject. Raskin stated that the addiction to social media apps seems to be almost as if the social media app companies were taking behavioural cocaine and sprinkling it all over your interface. This is why you keep coming back to those apps for more.
Raskin, a technology engineer, then went on to add that thousands of engineers were responsible for making the apps on your phone so addicting.
Back in 2006, Raskin designed infinite scroll, which is just one of the many features that several apps have. Infinite scroll is a habit that is now highly forming among users. At the time of the design, Raskin was under Humanized, a user-interface consultancy.
What is Infinite Scroll?
It’s a feature which allows users to endlessly swipe and scroll through the content without ever having to click on anything. Raskin says users just keep scrolling and scrolling…. And scrolling because their brains have not had time to catch up properly with their impulses.
According to Raskin, this innovative feature is precisely what keeps users addicted to their mobile phones for much longer. While Raskin was responsible for creating this feature, he now claims to feel guilty about it. Initially, he had not set out with a focus to get users addicted.
However, Raskin noted that many app designers were inspired to create addictive app features. This is due to the business models from the companies that employ them.
Sandy Parakilas, a former Facebook employee stated that social media is akin to slot machines and trying to endlessly quit cigarettes. Parakilas recognized this addictive risk when he worked at Facebook for five months. Since leaving the company in 2012, he has stopped using the service.
Facebook later released a statement to the BBC that their products function to “bring people closer to their friends, family, and other things they care about”. The company added that “at no stage does wanting something to be an addictive factor into that process”.
Co-inventor of Facebook’s “Like” button, Leah Pearlman, said that she loves Facebook because she began basing her sense of self-worth on the number of “likes” she received. Essentially, each time she needed validation she would turn to Facebook. However, Ms Pearlman stated that making the Like button addictive was not her intention.
Psychological Effect of Trends
Teenagers in Britain are spending about an average of 18 hours per week on their phones. It’s not surprising that a lot of it is on social media usage. On one hand, this is advantageous for the companies who are marketing through social media. However, this is an alarming trend, considering that there have been studies which have indicated that too much social media usage can lead to mental health problems. Worst cases include depression and anxiety, among other things.
Sean Parker, Facebook’s founding president in 2017, stated that the company deliberately set out to “exploit the vulnerability in human psychology”. He added that the company aims to take up as much of the user’s time as possible. Parker states that Facebook’s inventors understood this and consciously did it anyway.
Ime Archibong, a senior official at Facebook, stated that the company was still looking into the issue. This is in response to Parker’s allegations.
According to the BBC, there are recent reports that indicate Facebook’s new features that allow its users to see exactly how much time they have spent on social media.