Earlier this year, design specialist and business consultant Richard Banfield spoke to a crowded lecture hall at MacEwan University about digital tech companies and how they’re toying with our brains.
Have you ever wondered what alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and social media have in common?
Maybe you can’t speak to all of the above (at least I hope not), but I’m sure everyone’s felt that fleeting rush from getting “likes” on posted pictures and posts. All of the above trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that creates feelings of euphoria.
Companies like Facebook are basing their business model on how we feel, Banfield says. And it all comes down to brain chemistry.
Oxytocin (the love drug) is triggered by inclusivity, like when friends add you to their social network. Serotonin triggers feelings of pride and value when a goal is accomplished. Think about Endomodo or Strava, workout apps that let you share your progress with your friends. And who doesn’t like feeling proud and loved? Feelings like these keep us coming back for more, and that’s why apps like Facebook and Instagram are so addictive.
I’ve never been very active on social media, but in the personal branding assignment, I was HOOKED on the likes from friends and strangers responding to my Instagram posts. At one point during the assignment, I literally sat still for two hours straight, sending out pictures and taking in the love. It was a vicious cycle.
Companies like Facebook and Strava know that emotions drive behaviour – that if it feels good, we’ll keep coming back for more. And all this adds up to dollars for apps that generate revenue from display ads (or subscription fees for those who want to go ad-free). Just think about how many times you’ve checked your Facebook feed today.