Everyone from Senate leaders to the makers of Netflix’s popular “Social Dilemma” is promoting the idea that Facebook is addictive, managing editor Scott Rosenberg writes from the Bay Area.
- Humans have raised fears about the addictive nature of every new medium since the 18th century brought us the novel. Yet we’ve always seemed to recover our balance once the initial infatuation wears off.
The September debut of “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix sounded this alarm for millions of viewers.
- The documentary centers on Tristan Harris, the former Google engineer who has been leading the assault on social media as co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology.
- Harris started talking about smartphones as “slot machines” years ago: “Every time I check my phone, I’m playing the slot machine to see, ‘What did I get?’ This is one way to hijack people’s minds, to form a habit.”
- At a Nov. 17 hearing to grill Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham borrowed Harris’ “slot machine” language.
The big picture: “Internet addiction” follows previous alarms over video game addiction, TV addiction, comic book addiction and so on.
- “Social media is a drug” is the latest version of “TV is a drug,” which was an update of “rock music is a drug,” and so on.
Facebook largely rejects claims that its service addicts users by design.
- In a Facebook document rebutting “The Social Dilemma,” the company argues: “Facebook builds its products to create value, not to be addictive.”
- “We certainly do not want our products to be addictive,” Zuckerberg told Graham at the Senate hearing. “We want people to use them because they’re meaningful.”
Our thought bubble: Addictions typically are driven by an effort to numb pain or escape boredom. Solutions need to address demand for the addiction, not just the supply.
- People with fulfilling jobs, healthy families and nourishing cultures are a lot less likely to get addicted to Facebook or anything else.