Facebook is built almost entirely on a reward system, the same system most of the successful games like Battlefield and World on Warcraft are built on. Our body’s reward system gets active when we anticipate something, and when the anticipation is rewarded dopamine is released into our brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of pleasure and well-being, which is the same reward system that strong drugs are tapping into. The less time that goes from the anticipation to the dopamine effect the more addictive the drug is. In games we get the reward by getting better weapons, higher “status” or points and moving on to new levels. In Facebook the reward comes within a short time from posting any content on the web site, as soon as somebody else comments back or “likes” it. The addiction is taken to an even higher level as there can have been a lot of feedback or events also while you were logged out, something we haven’t seen in computer games before.
When people get addicted to any drug they get used to the dosage and after a while they need to raise the dosage, which means that people want even more rewards (feedback) after a period of using Facebook. The only way to get this is to collect more Facebook friends and to post more content, or more extreme content, to get the same dopamine amount as the addiction require.
So what do you do if you find yourself in a Facebook addiction?
- Set limits – Set up a schedule for how long time you can use Facebook per day or per week. If possible, also put Facebook free days in the schedule.
- Find a substitute – Because your body are used to a high dosage of reward you need to find a substitute that will give you the same feeling of reward. This can be a new hobby, working out, doing a sport or creating art.
- Decide positive and negative actions – Decide what will happen if you use Facebook more then your schedule allow. For example, give away 5 euro to a homeless person every time it happens. The same if you manage to hold the schedule, give yourself a monthly reward (no, the reward cannot be one extra hour on Facebook)