Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Kamilo Antolović and Tomislav Krištof
Do you know who Chuck Noland is? Don’t google it, just continue reading the article and you’ll find the answer to this question and the question from the title. The character of Chuck Noland was played by Tom Hanks (while he was still making good movies) in the movie Castaway. A problematic character with a lot of unresolved issues in life – we might say an unfortunate man – still, he was lucky enough to survive a violent plane crash and found himself in a secluded and uninhabited island.
An important role in this film was played by a ball, whom the main character named Wilson. He even drew in blood the contours of Wilson’s face. Why is Wilson important? What is the link between this and social networks?
There is in us humans – we would say in our biology (yes, biology, not psychology) – the need for continuous social validation. We are constantly referencing to the people around us and, in fact, we check whether we are “crazy”, if our decisions and actions are in accordance with generally accepted morality and whether they are directed towards good. Without this, without other people, we would lose the reference and could quite possibly “go mad”. The role of the ball, Wilson, was to keep our Chuck sane. He constantly sought approval from Wilson, practically for his every move, through talking, communicating feelings, through normal human interaction. And Wilson would “say” ok.
And here lies the link. We unconsciously seek proof of whether we are normal. We need a reference to the flow of our thoughts and we find it with other people, including in social networks. We also need Wilson. This is of course a simplified and isolated model. We humans are far more complex than that, but for the purposes of our story we’ll keep it at that.
We have explained a motive for visits to social networks from one perspective. The aforementioned model, however, does not explain why we go to social networks so often. Certainly not to check whether we are normal every ten minutes or every hour.
Take Facebook as an example of frequent checking. In the host of statuses on Facebook, here and there we find a “gold nugget”, something that will make us laugh, cheer us up and inspire us. When we find that golden nugget, we feel as if we received a small reward. Moreover, when we are spending time on Facebook, it passes quickly, as if we are not aware of it.
Do you know what we have just described? Addiction. Searching for a little sweetness in our lives, the expectation of reward, lack of awareness for time, an award, and then searching again. A clear description of addiction. More about this addiction can be found in this study www.bbc.com/news/health-16505521. We would also mention the dopamine loop (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reward_system), but more on that in a different article.
We are looking for a reward. And what do we find?
There are two factors to this cycle.
First: We ask ourselves how we feel when we see someone’s status with a photo of a beautiful beach with lots of smiling faces for example. If we are prone to depressive mood, we feel, in fact, bad. We are in the blues, and somebody’s having a good time. Moreover, we don’t even know the person well, so we are not happy for them either.
Second: The effect of multiplication. Rarely will someone publish something bad on Facebook. Depressed people don’t publish it on Facebook (in fact they do, you can recognize them by statuses with proverbs, motivational sentences and sometimes religious content). Only the “healthy” ones publish their beautiful experiences (a trip to a foreign country, selfies with celebrities, food, achievements). So we get the impression that the whole world is having a great time, while we’re feeling bad.
Due to these two effects, we will feel even worse. And we all sometimes feel depressed and anxious.
In conclusion: we are addicts, sometimes depressed and sometimes anxious, and on top of that we use one of the triggers of our depression, which could be Facebook for example, to check whether we are mentally okay. This does not sound good.
What do studies have to say on this issue?
There are a number of mechanisms, and we will single out one. Some episodes of our stay on Facebook can be stressful (the study – adolescents, stress hormone and Facebook – neurosciencenews.com/facebook-cortisol-teens-3112). The study says that if an adolescent has more than 300 friends on Facebook there’s a good chance that their biological system will begin to secrete the stress hormone – cortisol. Cortisol is good if it appears occasionally and directs our actions to resolve stressful situations. But if the system never shuts down, and is always on, there’s a chance to develop depression (www.webmd.com/depression/features/stress-depression#1).
What’s the conclusion? We would like to tell you that Facebook and other social networks are not at all harmless pastime. They’re not even a virtual copy of the real life. Social networks are places of distorted representations of life, and if we believe that Facebook is reality, then we have a big problem.
Therefore, next time you go on Facebook, think about whether you are depressed or anxious.