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Understanding the psychological rewards of bad habits
Creating new habits to replace old ones
On social media, being good looking is important to attract a certain audience. Social media influencers are going to great lengths to appear appealing to their followers, in order to grow their fame. They spend thousands of dollars on surgeries and makeovers, making sure no fashion and lifestyle trend is left untouched.
This social media image is a high-maintenance affair, with many succumbing to mental health problems associated with the new barometers of success, as the number of likes on their Instagram posts.
Some of the social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram act as hyper stimulators of manageable uncertainty, where digital stimuli(follows, likes and dislikes) is on high gear, affecting the brain in a fast-forward manner.
According to Predictive Processing theorists, being able to manage uncertainty has been associated with living well. A majority of people are failing at checking their online addiction and self-obsession, resulting in increasing cases of depression and despair.
Depression looked from the perspective of predictive processing, is a form of ‘cognitive rigidity’ where we fail to adjust our sensitivity towards criticism or feedback from others.
Apart from being a lot like pornography in terms of addiction and depiction of fantasy states, social media is akin to gambling when we see the habit-forming and arousing states of mind it creates.
Gamification of many social media apps makes the unpredictable cycle of social interactions, or virtual rewards, many times more addictive and crafted to perfection.
The way app interactions are designed, the user sees highly interactive mechanisms to like, share, upvote or comment, making feedback immediate and direct. The notifications are designed to arouse the user with more variable rewards and eventual compulsive behaviour.
Example: Facebook’s new ‘Swipe to Refresh’ feature works similar to a slot machine arm, making many describe the app as ‘behavioural crack cocaine’.
Too much engagement with hyper stimulants can cause addiction and depression, which social media companies fine-tune to perfection, leading to a perfect storm.
This is because more engagement means more profit, and companies know very well what content is addictive and engaging due to their all-knowing algorithms and big-data analytics.
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