Why are social media networks
so addictive?

Simply, because they are designed that way.

Social media, entertainment platforms, and many other things you don’t expect are designed to addict you. To grab your attention for subscription revenue, advertising, or engagement metrics. If you find yourself scrolling mindlessly, this is probably why.

Nobody scrolls and makes every decision consciously. We act on whims. And at the same time, normalize a lack of focus in our lives, and engrain the addictive loops advertisers and platforms want us to. 

It’s hard to strategize about where you want to grow while you’re waiting for your next hit.

Below, you will find this week’s video from my Youtube channel, some quotes and visuals you might like to share, and a transcript of the video. If you find any of this useful, sign up for my newsletter – I share weekly, across a range of topics that might help you become more intuitive, knowledgeable, and take control of your own life.

This weeks video:

Illustrations

Transcript:

Most  people and today are what we might call habituated or addicted to things like social media to consumption to, the emotional response that comes with reading a news article that you either hate, or you really love.

Those are all cultivated to be addictive. They’re deliberately designed to addict you and to make you fall into habits that guide you to their purchase or to their consumption. Your attention is the commodity for things like Facebook and Netflix.  

This doesn’t just apply when you’re on particular platforms. So, if you think you’re on a perfectly normal news website. So in the UK, many people will look at the BBC news and think that this is a reasonably kind of plain type of journalism that’s not designed in the same way and theyre completely wrong.

It’s full of clickbait. The BBC news uses a service called outbreak  , which is targeted to your profile before the things that you’ve clicked on before in exactly the same kind of way that Facebook is. It’s slightly different in terms of, they don’t have quite as much data on you, but actually Outbrain can pull on a lot of data from elsewhere as well and do the same tricks.

So they use headlines tailored to you which you’re more likely to click on based on your past profile, basically. And advertisers use the same tricks.

So advertisers, clickbait, all of these are pulls on your attention, which mean you have to effectively make hundreds of decisions every day, if your habits involve scrolling across a news website and deciding what to click on. What your brain is doing is making hundreds of decisions, hundreds. 

And think  about the number of different headlines you see that you either click on or don’t or the number of stories on Instagram that you might flip through, or the number of posts on Facebook that you might see as you scroll down a page. And you’re deciding whether to click on them or not. Now you’re not doing that consciously, most of that subconscious, based on your prior habits. But you’re still using your attention to make those decisions. 

I don’t know anybody who scrolls through social media, making an active, conscious choices to what they will click next. So if your system involves scrolling, then you, at some point will almost inevitably fall prey to this addictive loop of clickbait. I can’t think of any exceptions to that in the people that I know.

It’s incredibly easy to fall into one of these addictive loops  because the people behind them know exactly how to trap people, in terms of their attention. I don’t mean this in a nefarious way. I just mean they want your attention. 

That’s how they make their money. They have huge budgets for doing psychological research for seeing how people react to different stories and thinking about how they can then tailor their headlines to different demographics and different parts of the parts of the population.  And they’re good at their jobs. They don’t expect people to be really reading this stuff. Most of it is written by people in an incredibly short amount of time for a price that would shock you.  

But the idea is to get you consuming. So it’s a volume of information that you can’t possibly process consciously, and that you still are seeing in front of your face. 

The biggest point that I’m making here is that it’s really difficult to strategize to think about who you want to be and how to get there. While you’re waiting for your next hit. Basically, you’re waiting for your next, click or scroll or your emotional response or whatever your brain is waiting for it.

You might not consciously be thinking, Oh, I really need to see Facebook now, but when you pass your phone and you pick it up, just unthinkingly, Facebook somehow appears on  it. Doesn’t it. When you’re tired or you’re hungry , or you’re not thinking, and you’re just passive. It’s really difficult to take the time and the mental energy to strategize about where you want to get in life while you’re in that addictive loop.

The same goes, as I’ve said, for news websites or for infotainment products, if what you’re doing, when you’re feeling passive is scrolling, clicking, then it’s probably not going to help you get where you want to go. That’s the basic message. People need time off to have those kinds of realizations about who and what they want to be.

And not all of you can do it the way that I did as far as social media. Particularly   for me, it was curiosity based loops. So I love learning. And you might’ve got that from the videos already. I love to read and it’s incredibly easy for me to just get into a loop of reading things because they’re vaguely interesting . And vaguely interesting isn’t really enough. And it’s not enough to direct attention for a sustained period of time. And I’ve learned that that. But the way that I learned that was by taking two years to go sailing with my wife and kids, a sabbatical from an academic job, I fully intended to go back to that academic job at the time.

But, that path isn’t open to most people. Most people can’t take two years off and be in an environment where we didn’t have mobile reception for a good few weeks because we didn’t really care about it. So we never bought a local SIM card, in a few different places. And. That, that detachment from access to, secure release information beyond the books that I had in front of me, my kids, my life, and the natural world actually brought home to me, how easily I was led into curiosity based loops where I didn’t take control of what I was reading and use it in a productive way for me. 

And that path isn’t open to most people, but there are alternatives . And as I’ve been coaching other people over the past couple of years, what I’ve realized is that those alternatives are perfectly plausible for most people. And it means willpower and control and setting the right habits initially, and then discarding those habits importantly.

But there, there, there are ways out of virtually every addiction out there that there may be a couple of physiological exceptions, but not very many. What you need to do is believe you can do it and realize it’s important. So if you kind of buy the argument that I’m making that most information products, most entertainment, certainly, and everything that you see on social media is designed to addict you.

 

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