Is the Addiction to Social Media Apps Deliberate?
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 something that is deliberately done?
Aza Raskin, a former Jawbone and Mozilla employee weighed in on the subject by stating 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, which is why you keep coming back to those apps for more.
Raskin, a technology engineer, then went on to add that thousands of engineers who were responsible for making the apps on your phone so addiction have been worked on by literally a thousand engineers.
Back in 2006, Raskin designed infinite scroll, which is just one of the many features that several apps have. Infinite scroll is now being seen as a habit that is highly forming. At the time of the design, Raskin was employed with a user-interface consultancy called Humanized.
What is infinite scroll?
It is a feature which allows users like you to be able to endlessly swipe and scroll through the content in your phone 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, and while Raskin was responsible for creating this feature, he now claims to feel guilty about it because he had not set out with a focus to get users addicted.
However, Raskin did note that many app designers were motivated by the drive to create addictive app features because of the business models provided by 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 was employed at Facebook for five months, and since leaving the company in 2012, he has stopped using the service.
Facebook later released a statement to the BBC that their products were made to “bring people closer to their friends, family, and other things they care about” and that “at no stage does wanting something to be addictive factor into that process”.
Co-inventor of Facebook’s “Like” button, Leah Pearlman, said that she was hooked on Facebook because she began basing her sense of self-worth on the number of “likes” she received, and that each time she needed validation she would turn to Facebook. However, Ms Pearlman stated that making the Like button addictive was not her intention.
Teenagers in Britain are spending about an average of 18 hours per week on their phones, and a lot of it is on social media usage. An alarming trend, given that there have been studies done which have indicated that too much social media usage is linked to mental health problems such as depression and loneliness, among other things.
Sean Parker, Facebook’s founding president in 2017, publicly stated that the company deliberately set out to “exploit the vulnerability in human psychology” by taking 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, in response to the allegations made by Parker.
According to the BBC, there are recent reports in which Facebook is indicated to be working on features that will allow its users to see exactly how much time they have spent on social media.