"The Social Dilemma": The Neuroscience of Social Media
In the movie The Social Dilemma, leaders from the most notable social platforms came out with concerns regarding the impact their creation has on society and humanity. They disclosed and confirmed what we knew and ignored for a long time - we are all puppets to the machine.
Technology as it evolved owns us. Mega tech companies are utilizing us as data points to produce money for big corporations who manipulate and use us for monetization.
In the movie they go back to the origin of technology development and its relationship to psychology and neuroscience. It’s clear that the platforms we use today are the outcome of deep neuroscience and psychology research, built to use our brain and mind for profit.
So how do we enjoy the benefits of technology, the connectivity and connections it offers us, without having it control us?
The answer is in its origins - neuroscience and psychology.
The challenge to address is that we were trained on how to use technology before we were trained on how to use our mind. We use smart phones but don’t know how to use the smartest machine of them all - our brain.
Learning how to train our brain, thoughts and control our mind is the path to controlling technology, and not have it control us.
The Human Algorithm
Just like computers our brain is the human machine that operates us. Our master computer.
It collects and stores data from our life, events, situations we’ve been through, and uses it to create electricity in our brain to keep us going and engaged. That electricity is transmitted through neuropathways that are formed through our life based on our reaction to experiences.
Just like in social media, our brain is programmed to send us alerts, reminders and notifications based on our interests. It detects our interests based on our electrical pulses, Neuro transmissions, and reaction to information from life through emotions. It reaches for more of the same reactions, just like a Google search in our brain, to keep bringing up the same emotional reactions, and generate more electricity to our brain.
When an event or a person triggers us emotionally, it sends signals from our heart, which beats faster and feels the event, to our brain and keeps us engaged with life. It releases chemicals in our brain that feed our computer, our brain, with more data that we relate to and engage with, and so is the cycle of our thoughts and life.
We have 80,000 thoughts a day, a thought every second, and 80% of our thoughts are repetitive thoughts that are more often negative. Because our brain is also programmed to protect us from potential threats. Hence why it will alert us often with negative forecasts and predictions. We call it fear, stress and anxiety.
Fear, stress and anxiety feed the machine. They feed both the human machine- our brain, and technology - social media. Other more positive emotions that trigger electricity in our brain are love, excitement and hope, though we tend to hold on the negative ones due to our self defense mechanism.
Learning how to observe our thoughts, understand them, and screen through them like “spam”, is our path to freedom.
Let’s explore the human algorithm by showcasing a few functions of our brain and learn how to operate them:
The need for approval
When we are born the first survival need we have other than air is love, affection. A newborn is crying until he is caressed in his mother’s arms. That’s our first human need - before food and water. Love.
And from that moment on, we pursue love and affection for the rest of our lives.
With technology it translates into likes, shares, followers, comments.
That is our human algorithm. That is the social algorithm.
Recognizing this need and behavioral patterns can help us stop before we create and share content online, as well as hold us from reactively interacting in a mindless manner, in life and in social media.
When we engage with content online, when we like, comment, react - we activate both social and human algorithm to keep feeding us, the machine and our brain, with the same content - same thoughts. We get trapped like a mouse on a wheel and can’t get out of this self destructive mode.
The need for instant gratification
Another human need we have is instant gratification. As kids we demand our needs instantly. If we don’t get them we cry. As we grow up we are trained to tame our way of communicating that need - we can’t simply cry and get what we want (although some adults still utilize this method), so we are programmed to hide it, be polite and use manners. But the need for instant gratification is still there. Always was.
Understanding that this is how we operate and recognizing that we were programmed to control it, is proof that we can in fact train our mind and further program ourselves to react and interact in a more conscious way. We have hope for mind and behavioral evolution.
We are surrounded all day long by emotional triggers. Situations and people who trigger our heart to send electrical signals to our brain through reactive emotions.
Social media put it on steroids. Every post we see triggers us emotionally creating a roller coaster of emotions and signals to the brain that can cause our mind and thoughts an electrical failure.
Observing our thoughts and reactions to social posts can help us navigate through that overstimulation and manage our mind, and technology better. Choosing what thoughts - what posts - we interact with, and which ones we let go of, is the start.
The pursuit of happiness
As humans we seek happiness in different forms. Through family, friends, love, relationships, career, business, money, fitness and hobbies, we pursue happiness.
That is ingrained in our human algorithm. We search for happiness with every interaction we have. We search for it using keywords - hashtags, that stimulate happiness based on what it means to us.
Each of us has our own algorithm and keywords that translate to happiness, and we seek it like a Google search.
Our pursuit of happiness is in essence what feeds the machine - both the human machine (our brain) and the social machine online.
Recognizing the above human needs and knowing that this is our human algorithm and this is the social algorithm, programmed to entice and engage us with life, and technology, will help us stay on top of and in control of our relationship with technology, social media and ourselves.
The good news is that the human machine we can gain control over - it belongs to us. We own it and manage it. The social media machine is owned by others and their pursuit of happiness - which usually translates to money for them.
It’s in our hands (Heads) the ability to change that and gain back control.
So, are you Ready... Player One?