Learn amazing things to help you understand what's really behind social networks
We suffer a crisis in our culture, and it comes down to the mistake we make between two of our most important and positive emotions: pleasure and happiness.
A lot of people equate the two, but I want to tell you that they are entirely different. People think that it is the same. In fact, on the Internet, you can find definitions that are conflating confuse the two.
So what are the differences between pleasure and happiness?
- Pleasure is short-lived; happiness is long-lived.
- Pleasure is visceral; happiness is ethereal.
- Pleasure is taking; happiness is giving.
- Pleasure can be achieved with substances; happiness cannot be achieved with substances.
- Pleasure is experienced alone; happiness is experienced in social groups.
The extremes of pleasure all lead to addiction, whether they are substances or behaviors.
Yet, there's no such thing as being addicted to too much happiness.
- Pleasure is dopamine, and happiness is serotonin.
These are two biochemical neurotransmitters that the brain makes and uses to communicate between one neuron brain cell and another. Now, why do we care, so what?
Well turns out dopamine excites the next neuron and neurons when they're excited too much too frequently tend to die. So the neuron has a defense mechanism against excitement. What it does is, it reduces the number of receptors that are available to be stimulated in an attempt to try to mitigate the damage. The name for that process is called down-regulation.
You get a hit, you get a rush, and the receptors go down. Next time, you need a bigger hit to get the same rush because there are fewer receptors to occupy. And you need a bigger hit, and a bigger hit, and a bigger hit until finally, taking a huge hit to get nothing! That's called tolerance.
And then when the neurons start to die, that's called addiction.
Have you noticed when logging into Twitter (as an example), there's an extra delay that you don't know how long it's going to take (between two and three seconds) where the number of your new notifications take to appear? So why is that there? Well, that's called a variable-ratio schedule reward. It's like a slot machine, so you're playing the slot machine, and there's a time delay, and during that time delay, your anticipation is building. And then, you get to see how many notifications you get, so; you become more addicted to recheck it the next time.
These social media companies, just like the tobacco and food companies, have done enough that we just like the product we have and get addicted to it. And that is something kind of evil.
Facebook estimates it's 2.7 billion users spending about 50 minutes per day on its apps, including Instagram and Messenger, which literally changes your relationship with society and with each other.
Social media became as addictive as alcohol, porn, or gambling. One recent study found that participants who appeared to use social media most compulsively show changes in the part of the brain that controls impulse.
They want to psychologically figure out how to manipulate you as fast as possible and then give you back that dopamine hit. Facebook does it brilliantly as also Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.
Our cellphone is like a slot machine. It built into our brains the variable-ratio schedules reward. If you pull a slot machine lever, and sometimes you get a reward, and sometimes you don't, as soon as you check up your cellphone, you get a notification, or you don't. It makes it addictive. And so everything about our phone accidentally becomes a slot machine because it could be a text message from someone you love, or it could be nothing. But the more frequently it buzzes, the more it conditions us to check it more. And so obviously leading to these kinds of addictive problems that everybody feels (46% of people check more than 25 times).
The thought process that went into building these applications (Facebook being the first of them to understand it). The process was all about how to consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible. And that means that they realized that they need to, kind of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while. Because someone liked or commented on a photo, or a post or whatever. And that's going to get you to contribute with more content, and that will possibly get you more likes and comments so, it's a social-validation feedback loop. It's precisely the kind of thing that a hacker would come up with exploiting the vulnerability in human psychology. The social network creators consciously understood this fragility in human psychology, and they explored it thoroughly. Having astronomic profits selling to third parties, the information our vanity leads us to provide them at zero cost in exchange for some temporary pleasure.
Serotonin, however, is inhibitory. It's not excitatory. It inhibits its receptor to provide contentment to Zen out if you will. So you can't overdose the serotonin neuron.
So what does it mean to inhibit a receptor? What it means is, it binds, but it doesn't activate the process beyond the receptor. What it does is it slows down those neurons, instead of causing them to fire up. And doing so, you end up with the process of contentment; that feeling of one with the world, if you will. And that thing we call happiness.
There's one thing that down-regulates serotonin: dopamine. So the more pleasure you seek, the more unhappy you get!
Las Vegas, Madison Avenue, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Washington D.C. have very precisely and in a coordinated way, confused and conflated the term happiness with the term pleasure; so that you can buy happiness so that they can sell you their junk. It's called the economy, and it's based on hedonic substances, substances that drive pleasure, rather than happiness. And in the process, we have become most decidedly unhappy. And the problem is you can't fix a problem unless you can identify what the problem is. Let me try to explain it to you.
The word hack has a relatively short history. The very first-time the word hack was used other than in a butchery, was in 1955 when it was used at M.I.T. the model railroad club to talk about an unusual solution to a complex problem.
Over the next several decades, the word hack became synonymous with ingenious approaches to complex computer problems. (We now call white hat hacking), which is very prevalent and common in Silicon Valley. But in the process, we also now have black hat hacking, as we learned during the 2016 presidential election when Hillary Clinton's emails were hacked.
Black hat hacking is malice, in an attempt to blackmail or to cause the crashing of a computer; to wipe out a hard drive - not something good.
The question is, how your brain can be hacked?
The answer is it doesn't get hacked with computer code, but it gets hacked with false information.
And in fact, we've had false information since the time of the Romans. It's called propaganda. So what's the difference between marketing, which is what companies say they do, and propaganda?
The answer is the truth; that's the difference. When companies express a point of view that furthers their goals, that point of view references true facts. That is called marketing. When a company expresses a point of view and tries to advance its goals based on misinformation, that's called propaganda.
So the difference between marketing and propaganda is the truth. Corporations today have engaged in a very specific attempt to market their propaganda to get us to do different things than we might otherwise have done.
Examples, the easiest one, of course, is food; the idea that foods can be healthy goes back a long way. The question is which foods are the ones that ultimately lead to health? And the answer is, not the ones that the food industry has touted.
We have the data that demonstrates that they knew what they were doing. When we went low fat in the 1970s, the Sugar Association knew what it was doing. There is a paper trail of the communications between the Sugar Association and the Harvard School of Public Health scientists, to expressly exonerate sugar and saturated fat as the cause for our cardiovascular disease debacle.
It turns out we now have the data to show that that was utterly untrue. We have experienced an increase in obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, lipid problems, cancer, and dementia because of our processed food diet, which we were told was healthy. And they knew, back in the 1970s, that that was not the case. That's black hat hacking.
Our minds have been hacked to believe in certain things that are not true. And it's been a particular corporate plot. But we do have the data to show those individual companies engaged in their schemes to do so.
Another example, of course, was tobacco. Tobacco made it very clear for many years that there was no relation between nicotine and addiction, except that they had the data that said otherwise. And they lied all-time very accurately. Tobacco, alcohol, food, guns, energy, these are all hedonic substances and or behaviors, and they have costs, and we're paying those costs now. We're paying it in terms of our addiction crisis. We're paying it in terms of our opioid, our depression crisis. We're paying it in terms of lives lost, and we're paying it in terms of our health care failure. And you can't reverse it till you understand it. You can't pull yourself out of the ditch until you figure out how you drove into it.
From a social standpoint, pleasure is the feeling that this feels good; "I want more!"
Happiness or contentment is the feeling of "this feels good; "I don't want or need anymore!"
They're not the same; Pleasure generates more pleasure.
This is what the casinos are counting on. On the other hand, "I don't want or need anymore," says (if there were something to purchase), "I don't need to purchase it." All of the things that say "this feels good. I don't want or need any more" are things that you can't buy. They're not for sale. They are, however, accessible to every single human being on the planet. They're all the things your mother told you, but you forgot.
It's called the four C's:
- First one: Connect. Interpersonal connection turns out to be extraordinarily important for happiness, and the reason is that face-to-face, eye-to-eye connection generates something called empathy. Empathy activates a specific set of neurons in our brain, which are called mirror neurons. So that the feelings of the person you're talking to ultimately become adopted by you as well. And in that process, you generate contentment. Consequently, the interpersonal connection is extraordinarily important.
But then you have to ask the question, well, what about non-interpersonal connection? Like for instance, Facebook.
It turns out Facebook sows unhappiness, in part because there is no interpersonal connection, there's no serotonin rise. There's a dopamine rise every time a message flashes across your screen. It's called variable-ratio schedules reward. It causes you to increase your actions to access more Facebook, and that drives further depression, and the data shows that this is a vicious cycle.
- Second one: Contribute. And contribute means, not to your bankbook, it means to outside of yourself. You can do it within your work by making the world a better place for your colleagues, or you can do it outside of your work by volunteerism or philanthropy. So there are a lot of different ways to accomplish, contribute. But ultimately, it has to be outside yourself.
- Third one: Cope. To reduce stress, thereby improving your serotonin receptors to allow for better feelings of happiness. There are three things:
First - sleep, something we're getting much less of, in part because of our screens. A study at UC Berkeley showed that eighth-graders who slept with their cell phones in their room got 28 minutes less sleep each night than those who charge their cell phones outside the room. Another study showed that; if the cellphone is sitting on the desk, even if it's off, it takes three times as long to accomplish a task, as if the cellphone is not there, by being a distraction, and from the blue light emanating from the screen and activating that part of your brain that keeps you awake. Cellphones and other displays, which now have dominated our lives, have promoted unhappiness.
Second - within cope, mindfulness; multitasking is probably the single biggest destroyer of happiness that we have. People pride themselves on their being able to multitask; companies look for the people who can multitask the best. It turns out that only 2.5 percent of the population can do two things at once. Everybody else, it is smoke and mirrors, and the more things we take on, the quicker we get unhappy, and the lower our serotonin goes.
Third - workout. It turns out exercise will push down dopamine and increase serotonin on its own. And when you exercise as a mitigator of stress, you can advance your serotonin and in a very positive way.
- Fourth one: Cook for yourself. When you go out to a fast-food restaurant, you don't know what you're eating. There are three items in our diet that matter in terms of the serotonin, dopamine connection.
Tryptophan is the amino acid that is the building block to making serotonin. It happens to be the rarest amino acid in our diet, mainly found in fish and flax. We don't eat a lot of fish in general, but the bottom line is fish have a very high level of tryptophan, omega-3 fatty acids. Those also exist in fish, and most algae, things that eat algae primarily increase your omega-3s so, fish eat the algae, we eat the fish.
Omega-3s provide stability to neuronal membranes, less likely that neurons will die, allowing neurons to come back to shape so that we don't kill off the neurons that ultimately drive happiness.
And then lastly, the negative one, fructose sugar, the one that drives dopamine up, also stimulates serotonin down.
High tryptophan, high omega-3 fatty acids, low fructose, that's called real food. When you cook for yourself, that's what you're making. That's what you're eating. And, you're cooking for yourself and your family, you get the interpersonal connection, you get the contribution to something outside yourself. It's basically a win-win-win.
On the other hand, in fast food, you're eating alone. You're eating things you don't know what's in it, and you're eating a hell of sugar, because every item at fast food restaurant has been spiked with added sugar, specifically for their purposes, and not for yours.
We have moved on to a fast-food consumption society, and in the process, we have blocked our ability to get happy. We have to understand these problems in order to resolve them.
Many of us do not necessarily understand that we are addicted. We know we need something when want becomes a need. That's usually a sign of addiction.
A lot of people say they have a sweet tooth, that's usually a sign of sugar addiction if they say that. If they find themselves, not being able to concentrate on their job, or their family is because this craving is calling them and interfering with their daily life in some way. That's usually a sign of addiction. And that can happen from shopping, porn, from video games and cellphones that, of course, has been the most recent addition created by the social networks to keep you attached to the screen. If you find yourself checking your cell phone every five minutes waiting for a new notification, that's a sign of cellphone addiction.
It starts with a trigger, an itch if you will. And then that itch has to be scratched, and presumably, the scratch is socially acceptable. Like for instance, it is in our days socially acceptable to check the cellphone at any given moment. And then the variable reward.
Now if the rewards are the same every time, it won't become a habit, it won't become an addiction. But if it's different each time, then there is an impetus and a pressure to keep doing it and checking it all the time as a temporary pleasure and ultimately becoming part of your daily life.
That is what cellphones have done over the last ten years. They've occupied the primary position within our culture, to the point where we almost now can't even concentrate on our jobs. And the last part of the segregation is to have to invest. That is, to be willing to put down more money for the next iPhone to keep the status and the addiction going. And indeed, virtually everyone has opted for that addiction almost over everything else. So this has been a slow but steady drumbeat that should preoccupy all of us. That is one of the reasons why Apple and Samsung fight for market share. Because it basically is all about who's going to supply the rest of the world with their addiction.
So the questions are; why that, pleasure and happiness have become confused? Did the industry start that?
It actually started earlier than that. It seems like the health care system is set up notwithstanding to treat metabolic problems best than to prevent them. Right now, we have more money going out for chronic metabolic disease, than for everything else. Seventy-five percent of health care expenditures are for the diseases that constitute metabolic syndrome that is type 2 diabetes, hypertension, lipid problems, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia.
Here's the math. The food industry grosses 1.46 trillion dollars a year, of which 657 billion dollars are gross profit (equivalent to 45 percent). They're making a huge profit! However, healthcare expenditures are 3.2 trillion dollars, of which 75 percent (2.4 trillion dollars) is chronic metabolic diseases that could be prevented if we would fix the food problem.
The bottom line, you cannot have healthcare reform unless you have health reform. And you cannot have health reform unless you have diet reform. The problem is until we address the problem of diet (which will also, of course, solve the question of pleasure and happiness at the same time), we will not see an improvement in the healthcare system anytime soon. This has to be front and center. In addition, food is 20 percent of the investment, but it is 40 percent of climate change. Agriculture contributes 40 percent of climate change.
So if people are worried about this problem, as they should be, then fixing the diet problem has to be front and center for the two biggest problems that we have today: climate change and health care.
This is at the center of both of these phenomena, and we will not be able to solve it until we start to address it.
We have mistaken the experience of pleasure for the experience of happiness. And so we continue to drive our interest in pleasure (as an immediate satisfaction) at the expense of our happiness. And you cannot undo the paradigm unless you understand it.
The 4 Cs are the way to fix the problem. I remind you:
Connect - Interpersonal connection is vital for happiness because only face-to-face, eye-to-eye connection can generate empathy in real life.
Contribute - You can do it by volunteerism or philanthropy. But ultimately, it has to be outside yourself in real life.
Cope - To reduce stress and improve your serotonin receptors allowing you better feelings of happiness; sleep more (leave your cell phone out of the bedroom), mindfulness (pay attention to the present real-life experiencing on a moment-to-moment basis and avoid multitasking), and exercise as a mitigator of stress. (It advances your serotonin in a very positive way.
Cook – Avoid fast food and know what you're eating (Tryptophan, omega-3 fatty acids High, and low fructose). It will allow your neurons to come back to shape so that you do not kill off the neurons that ultimately drive your happiness.
What all of these social platforms do, every single one, is it exploits our natural tendencies as human beings to get, want, and depend on feedback.
And that feedback, chemically speaking, is the release of dopamine in your brain. It leads you to react, and if you get too desensitized, and you need it over, and over, and over again, then you become detached from the world in which you live, and start living your cellphone screen.
If you don't think you are addicted, then see if you can turn it off for a week. We used to do anything to be liked, but for the person in front of us. Now it is to be liked by 2.7 billion absent people that you don't know.
Now the free will is magnified on steroids. You're free to go in any direction you want. Do not live the matrix. It's just a reflection of our own free will.
Social media have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. That is what we are living in. If you feed the beast, that beast will destroy you. If you push back on it, you have a chance to control it. It is a point in time where people need to hard break from some of these social media manipulative tools of immediate satisfaction that we surrendered to.
The short term dopamine-driven feedback-loops that social media have created are destroying our social habits and culture. We are isolating and preventing ourselves from real dialogue, not cooperating with each other, being misinformed, and living attached to FakeLook.