Some ex-directors of the main social networks have raised their voices because, they say, "they are programming the behaviour of people, driven by dopamine", which causes the feeling of happiness in our brain.


1 March 2019


How many hours do you spend a day on the Internet? And on social networks? How much time can you spend without checking your mobile? How many phone calls do you make per week? And WhatsApp messages? Surely, the answer is more daily hours than you imagine and you have not made any calls in the last week. But, this behaviour may not be entirely voluntary and conscious. We'll explain why.

As reported by the former Facebook CEO, Chamath Palihapitiya, who worked from 2007 to 2011 in the company, including as vice president of user growth, "the big technology companies, such as Facebook or YouTube, modify their algorithms so that users increase their time using their product. This can cause addictions and dangers which come from the massive and excessive use of social platforms."

Palihapitiya's criticism, made at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in November 2018, doesn't point only to Facebook, but to the entire 'Silicon Valley ecosystem' which affects other digital services. According to the complaint, "these short-term feedback cycles, driven by the dopamine we have created, are destroying the functioning of society. Without civil discourse, with misinformation. It’s a global issue. It is eroding the fundamental foundations of how people behave towards each other and each other, "simplifying their interaction to 'heart, like or thumbs up' 'emojis'. Palihapitiya recommends taking a digital "break", warning that "people's behaviours are being programmed without them realising it".

Conscientious objectors from networks

Palihapitiya's warnings are not the only ones and they are added to those of other top executives of the social network, such as those of Sean Parker, one of its first managers, who acknowledges having become a 'conscientious objector' from social networks. Parker states that "Facebook and other social networks exploit a vulnerability in human psychology by creating a feedback loop of social validation."

Also, the ex-product manager of the company, Antonio García-Martínez, says that "Facebook lies about its ability to influence people based on the data it collects on them."

 Truth About Tech

Little by little, initiatives promoted by former employees of Silicon Valley companies are emerging against the intrusion of technology and social networks, especially to protect the rights of children and adolescents in the United States. Their objective is "to inform about the social repercussions of the constant connectivity to which we are subject". 'Truth About Tech' is one of them.

According to this initiative in the United States, technology has negative effects at the individual, social and political levels. 27% of adults consider themselves addicted; 48% see the need to respond immediately to messages or alerts from their social networks. The figures among adolescents are 50% and 72%, respectively. In addition, around 75% of parents say they argue with their children about the use of mobile phones.

What is and how does dopamine work?

Dopamine is one of the most well-known neurotransmitters in our nervous system. Activate the pleasure and reward circuits of the brain, in addition to the feeling of calm and relaxation. According to a study by the University of Connecticut, published in the journal Neuron, when we perform actions which our body values as beneficial, dopamine is released.

Digital Detox: what we can do

1. First, detect our digital 'hook level'. iOs already does it in series, and for Android there are Apps which make us a diagnosis to set limits. Checky, Qualitytime, Forest or Pause are some of them.
2.Once you know the number of hours, we can carry out 'digital detox therapy', starting by using only our phone for what really benefits us (the cost-benefit), for example, the browser.

3.To stop this being a 'habit', you must use obstacles, such as moving the device away from you so that it is not easy for you to pick it up or remove sound notifications.

4.Finally, with a lot of self-control and willpower, determine a time of use per day and be strict and comply with it.

Nomophobia is an anxiety or uncontrollable fear of being away from your mobile phone. In Spain we spend 5 hours per day on average using or browsing with our mobile phone.