Addicted To Likes

I know some people who have been through rehab. One of them, a facebook friend has been writing about the process a lot lately, as she went through it, and continues to update on the progression into a newer, cleaner, sober lifestyle.

Another friend also recently made a comment about addiction, her comment related to quitting smoking.

A talk radio host I regularly listen to on my commute describes her show as “your healthy talk radio addiction”.

A coworker once asked me if I had any vices, while popping some chewing tobacco in his cheek. I told him, “I’ve got all of ’em”. I don’t feel like going into every little detail, but I thought I would focus on just one, because it seems to me that the same language that my friend going through recovery uses also applies: facebook addiction.

I’m going focus on one specific thing that I’m going to use the term ‘addiction’, without looking up the definition right now, and that is facebook likes and comments and such. I don’t recall all of the biochemistry of addiction as it applies to substance addictions, but I think most likely the mechanism is the same; something rewards a pleasure center in the brain, and you start to want more of that reward. Whether or not an addiction can be healthy, as the radio show host puts it, or not, is debatable, I suppose. I think it’s possible.

I recently read a chapter in a book about celebrity, pop culture, and narcissism. I got to thinking how much of social media seems to be amplifying the phenomena. We post things, we get likes and comments, we feel rewarded, we post more things, and so on. If we suddenly stop getting likes and comments, it starts to produce anxiety. So maybe, as in the case of our pop celebs, we start to post more edgy stuff in the hope of being noticed to reward those pleasure centers again. That would be a somewhat negative view of the process, but I think it operates similarly to addiction.

Another example would be having a friend who makes you laugh, and over time, you find yourself giggling in front of a computer screen, while people around you wonder just what is so funny. For myself, I’ve found myself in this situation with a friend. It came about at a point where I felt like I was in a very negative environment with a lot of very negative comments coming at me every day, and whether it was an escape from my reality, or just a case of ‘laughter is the best medicine’, all’s I know, is man, I was sure grateful to find someone to help cheer me up out of a serious funk.

Now, does this also fall under the same ‘addiction’ category? I think it could. I don’t know the exact reasons, although I have some ideas, my friend sort of moved on with a busy life, and the likes, comments, and laughs started to sort of taper off. I sort of noticed it was happening, and it started producing a sense of anxiety. Now, to me, there’s no question that this is the same mechanism at play as in any other addiction, but there’s also no question in my mind that all of those mornings and days full of snickering and giggling and laughing was feeding me some much needed positive reinforcement. But you know, that’s how things go sometimes. People have reasons for what they do, whether or not you are aware of what they are. You just kind of accept okay, this filled an important role in my life, but now I have to find something else to try to fill that space. (This is where the religiously inclined will start talking about finding God, most likely.)

I can’t go into the details of what I’m thinking about all of this, but I just thought I’d throw this one example out there. I’ve certainly felt a whole range of emotions as it applies to having been on facebook, mostly without a purpose other than human contact. I think probably most people have busier lives, and use facebook a little more purposefully than I have been. So they probably don’t go through the experience in the same way. I just thought I’d share one little aspect of it from my perspective.

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