For many students nowadays, Facebook has become an important part of life. Whether it’s checking the notifications, waiting for messages, refreshing the newsfeed or anticipating likes on a high-definition DLSR camera profile picture, Facebook is undeniably entertaining. Some people find Facebook so entertaining that they fall hopelessly into the cycle of cyber-facebook addiction, unable to cut down on their browsing time – severely restricting the glorious pursuit of their greater goals in life.
Almost everyone knows someone like this, so why is Facebook so addictive and why do people continue to browse it despite knowing its negative effects? One theory is that the human brain is wired to perform social interactions, and it releases copious amounts of feel good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin as a reward. When a Facebook user spends enough time logged on, his/her brain adapts to the situation and begins to recognize the website as a genuine venue for social interaction, secreting chemicals which will keep the user feeling relaxed and positive and allow them to mindlessly and happily browse for several hours.
However, addiction to technological messaging is nothing new. When mobile phones were first released there were a few reports of teenagers addicted to text messaging, so why is Facebook even more dangerous? With the rapid development of computer processing and cheap high speed internet, internet browsers have become faster than ever. Content can be accessed with a click of a button or a tap of the thumb, providing users with unlimited amounts of entertainment. The rapid exposure to content is also very addictive to the human brain as dopamine is released each time we switch to a new task as motivation to begin. The Newsfeed has been designed in such a way that interesting items are concentrated at different sections, intended to keep the user browsing. Have you ever noticed that browsing someone else’s facebook timeline feels so different to browsing your own? This is because Facebook’s code is so advanced that it actually keeps track of your browsing habits and customises your timeline with a carefully selected array of videos and photos which are specially engineered to keep you on for longer. The deadly Facebook newsfeed is the amalgamation of various internet entertainment functions, videos, photos, vines, memes pieced together with the hand-selected social drama happening around you, all mixed in together and blended into a sweet paste with a consistency perfected to your personal taste. Once Facebook really gets into the mind, the user forms the habit of minimizing xtremepapers to check the incognito tab once every few minutes, and thus the poor student is robbed of exam points.
So how can an addict break free of this addiction? Luckily, unlike alcoholics, “Facebook addicts” can break free without too many negative repercussions by simply choosing to turn off the internet when they require the computer to study, or avoiding the computer when they are doing work.
Written by John Ding, edited by Saffron Huang. This is our inaugural post in our weekly “Student Space” column which will feature thoughts and musings from each of our News Committee members on a variety of topics. Stay tuned for next week’s article!