Facebook and dopamine--planned corporate addiction
Surfing though the tubes, I came across a video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39RS3XbT2pU which leaves a great deal to contemplate, this video is 15:16 long and features 2 of Facebook's high executives, who have since left to company, for reasons not clearly stated, but which are irrelevant to this subject.
Shane Parker, former Facebook president, and Chamath Palihapitiya, former Facebook executive in charge of user growth, make a startling, yet not surprising disclosure. Facebook was consciously designed to be addicting. The addiction consists in part of controlling the dopamine reward circuitry in the brain. The methods utilized to achieve the goal are not precisely reviewed but things like shares, comments, thumbs up etc. are supposed to provide the user with little packets of dopamine release, thus making them want more.
In the austerity environment of shrinking expectations, high labor / low return employment and progressively more brazen assaults on civil liberty and truth in general, is it any wonder that people are looking for a "fix"? Well, we can't do marijuana says Big Pharma and Alcohol industries. We get opioids and other life-threatening avenues out from our individual and collective miseries. We get no relief in the form of alleviating the oppressive socioeconomic milieu into which we find ourselves. Can't do cocaine, despite the best efforts of the CIA to enable this habit. Cocaine is a dopamine releasing agent par excellence. Technically, it's a receptor agonist for cocaine. But I will spare you of the medicalese, to comment further.
From Merriam Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary, Unabridged, Second Edition:
v.t.,; addicted, pt., pp.; addicting, par. [L. addictus, pp. of addere, to devote, to deliver over.] to apply habitually; to devote or give (oneself) up habitually (with to); to habituate; to attach closely: generally with a reflexive pronoun and sometimes in a good sense, but, as now used, generally in a bad sense; as to addict oneself to intemperance, to gambling, or the like; most frequently used in the past participle; as she was addicted to gossip.
to addict oneself to a person, as to a master or a leader (Obs.)
, n, one who is addicted to some habit, as to the use of a drug.
1. the condition of being addicted (to a habit); habitual inclination
2. among the Romans, a making over of goods to another by sale or legal; sentence; also, an assignment of debtors in service to their creditors.
If any of your are interested in the neurobiology of addiction, there are thousands of technical papers, as well as more thousands of anthropologic / social science papers. Read them as you will.
Let's discuss this. First we start with the term homeostasis, which means keeping the body's internal milieu in as stable a balance as is possible, given the enormous variability of effort and environment. Homeostasis, for instance, is why most humans have a body temperature near 98.6˚.
Every human function, with the exception of thought (present in unfortunately limited numbers of humans) represents a system of chemical / electrical balances. Dopamine (DA) is certainly emblematic of this. The very well-known disease, Parkinson's (PD), is a reflection of primarily dopamine insufficiency, as well as other neurotransmitters. To a PD patient a controlled delivery of dopamine would largely normalize their life. Too much is bad, too little is bad. There must be a balance, which in PD is notoriously absent.
So let's come to pleasure, joy, delight, happiness, bliss, Nirvana, or whatever you want to call it. Dopamine is the primary but certainly not the only determinant of the above listed qualities. Too little release often results in social isolation, depression, abulia (for the curious, abulia, which can result from structural brain disease, is roughly equivalent to loss of zest for life), etc.
Too much DA results in excessive movement, tics, tremors, twitches, writhing, shaking, seizures. It also results in logorrhea, mania, grandiosity, paranoia, hyperthermia, death.
Clearly the subjects of the video were talking about excessive dopamine release in a controlled fashion. Raving maniacs from excessive FB-induced DA discharges would certainly be counter-productive to FB's aims of wider, not deader, audiences. So FB may have hit upon a sustainable formula for controlled-addiction, a sort of up-rated homeostasis, which in actuality may have been achieved. I don't FB, nor Twitter. I get my shots of DA partly from c99 and partly elsewhere.
If a new steady-state DA release is then achieved, the DA receptors recalibrate so that the newly elevated DA receptors require the newly achieved elevated DA levels. To use an old metaphor, the newly elevated DA regime becomes "old hat". Therefore, many of the chemically non-addicted FB'ers will notice a drop off in pleasure experienced from the FB interchange and go elsewhere for stimulation. FB die hards conceivably pursue this addiction into oblivion. Exit any pretense of rationality. Abandon cognitive examination, including those relating to emotion.
Too live a life without DA, is to live in a prison every bit as much as the most severe PD patients. There must be some in our lives, delivered at a sustainable rate. Many of the determinants of how much DA (or acetyl choline or serotonin or endorphins, etc) is enough depend upon environmental issues. These issues can be quantified only in a controlled laboratory environment and very specifically at that.
If one can control how much DA one allows into one's life, than FB or Twitter or even c99 can be useful for the occasional stimulus. Prolonged increasing stimulus in biology leads to only one of two outcomes: addiction or death.