Sept 14th, 2020 The Social Dilemma

I’ll begin this letter to you all with a call to action. I would love open and honest feedback about my blog posts. I welcome your opinions and thoughts, so please share them! Together we can grow and learn how to be the best versions of our self.

My academic background is in Neuroscience, specifically the behaviors of humans and how day to day actions and feelings are represented in the brain. I studied at The Ohio State University from August 2013 to May 2017. I graduated with honors and am now pursing a specialization in cardiac rhythm management through surgical intervention. I also have an extensive background in customer service, having worked for 20 different companies in a customer service or sales role over the past decade.

The Social Dilemma is a Netflix original movie I think everyone should take the time to watch. The movie breaks down the intentions of the creators of social media. One more interesting point from the movie is the fact that everything we see on the internet is customized to us and our location. Every move we make on the internet is tracked by engineers who work tirelessly to make the social media we consume more influential on us and our thoughts. The end goal is to sell ads and make money from the length of time a post is viewed. Social media is the first platform of its kind to cause individuals to change their actions and decisions without having direct contact with another human. What does this mean for our future? It seems, social media might be a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

The first step to understanding the dangers of social media is to understand the structure of the brain.

As our brains take in information about the world and use it to steer our actions, two key principles guide our choices: seek pleasure and avoid pain. ”

It’s simple. We do things that bring us pleasure, and social media is designed to do just that. Sometimes, we open ourselves up with vulnerability before taking into account both sides of the coin. Reward is found in likes, followers, and internet fame. This not only reinforces the checking behavior, but it is an instant hit of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is responsible for the pleasure that we feel when engaging in activities.

There is a blissful mindlessness to checking our social media. Have you heard of Pavlov’s dog experiment? The purpose of the experiment was to see if the dog could be conditioned to salivate to a bell. This was accomplished by showing the dog food, clicking a metronome, and measuring the salivary response. Unconditioned Stimulus (Food) > Unconditioned Response (Salivate). The same can be applied to checking social media. Unconditioned Stimulus (Social media notifications) > Unconditioned Response (Pleasure). “These habits [checking phone for notifications] are thought to be the result of behavioral reinforcement from “information rewards” that are received immediately on checking the device, potentially engaging the cortico‐striatal dopaminergic system due to their readily available nature. The variable‐ratio reinforcement schedule inherent to device checking may further perpetuate these compulsive behaviors.” Why is this bad?

Having over activation of the Dopaminergic system can create a down stream effect of synaptic pruning within the cortex. This creates the addiction that some feel towards social media. Every time a notification is available, so is a hit of dopamine. Like a smoker who needs a cigarette, some teens and adults need social media. Have you ever gone without social media? How long were you able to last? Did you find yourself thinking of your phone and social media often? How often?

If you’ve never taken a social media vacay, I highly suggest you try it! If that is too much, try limiting yourself to a specific amount of social media time a day. Consider only checking it at meals or setting a timer every 3 hours to check your phone for 15 minutes. The goal here is to create a balance between your social media usage and your daily life. This cannot be achieved if self-awareness is not present. So, today I challenge you two tasks: watch Netflix’s The Social Dilemma  and honestly evaluate the amount of time you spend on social media and how that is effecting your mental and physical health. Let me know how your life evolves without the constant distraction of social media!


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