by John Goetz, LPC
Hello all. I was listening to NPR one morning and heard a story about the development of Facebook.The discussion was about the algorithms that went into the creation of Facebook and how it was designed to ensure its users would continue to engage with the program by eliciting a small dopamine response in our brains; a small hit of pleasure to ensure we would keep posting and commenting. One of the earlier developers is so concerned he stated that he will not let his children use social media and avoids using it himself. This is the same reward system that is naturally activated by things that are good for us like food and friendships, and is activated in even higher doses by alcohol, gambling, and other vices.Apparently all forms of social media makes use of this triggering of a dopamine release, thus keeping us engaged with our screens in much the same way a drug might compel us. Now in a way this is nothing new. People have been boasting/posting, and gossiping/responding since time began.We can just do it instantly now and receive instant feedback.
In the spirit of the holidays I thought it would be appropriate to talk about something that really matters, relationships. Waylon Jennings once said, “We’ve been so busy keepin up with the Jones, Four car garage and we’re still building on, Maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of love.” Media of all various shapes and sizes from traditional print ads to bots on social media issue a siren song of want and desire, promising fulfillment is a credit card number away.We know this is a lie but we desire/covet anyway. One small suggestion is that during the holidays maybe we can get back to the basics of connecting with family and friends face to face. Social scientists know that the attention of another human being is profoundly reinforcing. Even our four legged friends crave attention. A recent study at Emory University has shown that reward systems in a dog’s brain will light up as strong or stronger in response to praise as it does to food.If you want to experience some true Christmas cheer how about we turn away from the screens in our lives and connect with family and friends over milk and cookies or (insert your choice of food and beverage here). Give yourself and others the gift of spending some time in face to face conversations. According to the researchers at Emory this should provide a double shot to the reward system in our brains, combining good company and good food. Edmond Family Counseling recognizes that this may be a difficult time of year for many in our community. If you need help and would like to talk to someone, please call us.405-341-3554. If you would like to make an end of the year contribution to support our mission of mental health, please log on to http://edmondfamily.org. All gifts are fully tax deductible.