Social media and the neuroscience of predictive processing – Mark Miller & Ben White | Aeon Essays - Deepstash
How To Break Bad Habits

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Understanding the psychological rewards of bad habits

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How To Break Bad Habits

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The Society Of Spectacle

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.


509 reads

Neuroscience And Manageable Uncertainty

  • Digital stimuli interact with the brain like a slot-machine does, making the experience rewarding and addictive.
  • The brain prefers manageable uncertainty, needing to resolve something and feel good.

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.


323 reads

The Game Of Life: Predictable Processing

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.


283 reads

Fake World, Fake Self

  • Social media showcases to us a world painted with beauty, luxury and leisure, where everyone is looking good and feeling happy.
  • This is creating a gap between the fantasy world in our smartphones and the real world.
  • Apps allow us to present ourselves in the best possible way, hiding our imperfections with beauty-enhancing software, providing others with a carefully selected, curated image of ourselves.
  • In return, we get more of the same, as the world we see on social media, especially the world of influencers on Instagram, is altered to hide anything unworthy or ugly.


287 reads

Snapchat Surgery

  • Some apps allow people to preview the effects of cosmetic surgery on themselves virtually, making them see what will happen when they go under the knife. 
  • The lure of looking good on social media makes many go towards plastic surgery, thinking of it as the only option.
  • The average American teen spends over seven hours a day online, according to a 2019 study, playing the game of hyperstimulation to the hilt. 
  • Too much inauthenticity and fake imagery lead to sky-high expectations and eventual failure.


213 reads

Pornography And Social Media

  • Internet porn, according to Science writer Gary Wilson, is a dangerously rewarding and addictive hyper stimulator.
  • Just like pornography is a fancy presentation of unattainable sex goals, social media platforms are a fantasy version catering to our intrinsic desire to socialize with others.
  • Both pornography and social media show curated fantasies, presenting it as something that seems possible.
  • Both have high levels of excess, and novelty, kicking the reward system of the brain(that feel-good dopamine-producing feeling) into overdrive.


228 reads

Gambling And Social Media

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.


179 reads

App Design To Hyper Stimulate The Mind

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’.


186 reads

Too Much Detachment From Reality

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.


228 reads



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