Facebook, the social media network that we all know and love (or hate, or have an “it’s complicated” relationship with) has become a ubiquitous aspect of our lives. Allison Graham in her TED talk says that on average Americans pick up and check our cell phones as much as 150 times per day. What are we doing each time we pick up our phones? Why do we feel so helplessly compelled to check our phones so often? We want to know immediately if someone likes a post or a selfie because research shows that these tiny compliments and comments give us a little dopamine rush each time. A dopamine rush, we might think, is a good thing, especially from something so harmless, right? Research over the past few years has been questioning the notion of this harmlessness of the dopamine boost we get from likes, and is finding that it is, like the dopamine rush we get from drugs, addictive. Aside from the addictive nature of Facebook gratification, Facebook can potentially harm our mental and emotional wellness, damage our relationships, and cause an overall sense of loneliness.

“All social media platforms include three essential components: a space for users to construct a profile, the possibility of linking many users to this profile and the ability to exchange content with one another” (Boyd and Ellison, 2008). The first two components that make up a social media platform seem to be the areas that make it complicated for some of us. A persons online image results from the creation of a Facebook or other social media profile and the maintenance of their online presence. Practically all social media users wish to have a degree of control over the image of themselves that is presented on the internet. This need to control our image comes from the desire to achieve likes and comments that improve our sense of self worth and again, gives our brains a release of dopamine. This construction and edited version of ourselves and other people that we constantly encounter on Facebook leads us to compare our lives to what we see through the filter of Facebook and imparts on us a distorted sense of ourselves and what our lives should be like. It is not uncommon for this to lead to feelings of jealousy of others and a sense that we are inadequate.
Another way in which Facebook and social media reduces and disrupts our sense of self and our relationships is that what we are presented with online can only be consumed through photos and generally short pieces of text. When we reduce our thoughts and feelings this way we lose all of the non-verbal cues that make our social lives rich and complex.
Returning to the “150 times a day” average that we look at our phones we can also deduce that being checked in with our phones and reading posts from other people throughout our day reduces our “alone time”. Free time away from “society” is vital to the function of many psychological processes. “Privacy provides personal autonomy that allows us to be free from manipulation by others and thus have more control over our lives and outcomes. Privacy also provides a space for emotional release from the demands of impression management and emotion regulation that go along with life within a social group.” (Zurbriggen, 253). Frequenting one’s Facebook feed disrupts these necessary process that occur when we are alone and “unplugged” from our devices and social media platforms.

boyd, d., & Ellison, N. B. (2008). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship.
Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13 210–230. 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00393.x


Zurbriggen, Eileen L., et al. "Negotiating Privacy and Intimacy on Social Media: Review and Recommendations." Translational Issues in Psychological Science, vol. 2, no. 3, Sept. 2016, pp. 248-260. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1037/tps0000078.