Is Social Media Addictive? Here’s what the science says.

Is Social Media Addictive?  Here's what the science says.


A group of 41 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, saying the company knowingly uses features on its platforms so that children can compulsively use them. Can. The company said that its social media sites are safe for youth.

“Meta has used powerful and unprecedented technologies to lure, engage, and ultimately entrap youth and teens,” the states said in their lawsuit filed in federal court. “Its motive is profit.”

The allegations made in the lawsuit raise a deeper question about behavior: Are young people becoming addicted to social media and the Internet? Here’s what the research found.

Experts who study Internet use say that the magnetic attraction of social media arises from the way content is wired into our neurological impulses and wiring, making it difficult for consumers to turn away from the incoming stream of information. It happens.

David Greenfield, a psychologist and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction in West Hartford, Conn., said the devices lure users in with some powerful tactics. One is “intermittent reinforcement”, which creates the idea that the user can receive a reward at any time. But it is unpredictable when the reward will come. “Just like a slot machine,” he said. Like a slot machine, users are attracted by lights and sounds, but even more powerful, information and rewards are tailored to the user’s interests and preferences.

Adults are susceptible, he said, but young people are especially at risk, because the brain areas involved in resisting temptation and reward are not as developed in children and teens as in adults. “They’re all about impulse and not much about control of that impulse,” Dr. Greenfield said of young consumers.

Furthermore, he said, the teen brain is particularly attuned to social connections, and “social media is an ideal opportunity to connect with other people.”

Meta responded to the lawsuit, saying it had taken several steps to support families and teenagers. “We are disappointed that instead of working productively with companies across the industry to create clear, age-appropriate standards for the many apps used by teens, the Attorney General has taken this path,” the company said in a statement. Chosen.”

For many years, the scientific community generally defined addiction in relation to substances such as drugs, and not in relation to behaviors such as gambling or Internet use. That has slowly changed. In 2013, the official reference for mental health conditions, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, introduced the idea of ​​Internet gaming addiction, but said more study was needed before formally declaring the condition.

a next studYou explored broadening the definition of “Internet addiction.” For example, the author suggested further exploration of diagnostic criteria and language, for example, terms such as “problematic use” and even “Internet” were open to wide interpretation, as information and Its delivery can take many forms.

Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital, said he discouraged the use of the term “addiction” because the Internet, if used effectively and with limits, is not only useful, but Also essential for everyday life. “I prefer the term ‘problematic Internet media use,’ a term that has come into use in recent years,” he said.

Dr. Greenfield agreed that the Internet clearly has valuable uses and that the definition of how much is too much may vary. But he said there are also clear cases where excessive use interferes with school, sleep and other important aspects of a healthy life. Many young consumers “can’t put it down,” he said. “The Internet is a giant hypodermic, and its content, including social media like Meta, are psychoactive drugs.”



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