herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Facebook and tweets simply too tempting

How often have you checked Facebook and Twitter today? If the answer is that you've checked them a lot, then you've got company, including lab rats -- I'll explain later.

According to the University of Chicago, checking our social media is one of the hardest temptations to resist.

We can postpone desires such as having a drink more easily than we can deny ourselves the pleasure of taking out that phone to see what the world is saying to us, the university's research finds.

We live in an age of temptation, or what the researchers called "a welter of assorted desires" which we have only mixed success in resisting. Well, we could have told them that for free -- after all, temptation goes all the way back to Adam and Eve.

Except that while the Garden of Eden had an apple tree, it didn't have an Apple or broadband or smartphones. And it's the broadband temptation, in other words social networking, that's the temptation we can't deny ourselves.

All of which makes me wonder what's up with me because recently I find myself becoming bored by Facebook and Twitter. Lately it seems to me that Facebook and Twitter are mental snackfood and not the full, satisfying meal I'd prefer. Yes, I post things on both and respond to other posts but I have to say my participation has fallen. It's all beginning to seem a bit irrelevant.

Facebook helps me to keep an eye on people I know and Twitter helps me to keep an eye on people I don't know. As for Google+, I don't need that in my life as well.

Yet there is no doubt that these social media have wormed their way into the very heart of our lives. For instance, we seem to be more concerned about Facebook's privacy policy than we are about people who have been in prison for decades because what they said too loudly was overheard by authorities.

The dominance of social media appears to be based partly on wanting sharing everything. That's starting to irritate me as well.

I'm the sort of person who wants to do as much sharing as he has to do and no more. I'm expecting the day to come soon when everything from my tax returns to my medical records will include a little logo I can tick to share with my "friends." Had there been a smartphone in the Garden of Eden I expect Eve would have tweeted a picture of the apple to "share" with Adam.

Fast forward to our always-connected world in which we seem to be condemned to tap away at our phones and getting little thrills. In psychology experiments using rats, the animal presses a button and gets a reward but only some of the time. That uncertainty plus the occasional reward is what keeps the lab rat interested. Remind you of anyone you know?

Padraig O'Morain is accredited as a counsellor by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

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