Wednesday January 24, 2018

Beware, Facebook or social media addiction can trigger cocaine-like high

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New Delhi: If the researchers from California State University-Fullerton are to be believed, then we’ve found yet another reason to stay away from Facebook and other social media. The research concluded the fact that excessive usage of social media can be as dangerous as an addiction to cocaine or gambling.

They say social media obsession may lead to something akin to classical addiction. Such use triggers two key parts of the brain associated with rewards: The amygdala which is the integrative place for emotions, behaviour and motivation and the striatum- part of the forebrain and a critical component of the reward system.

The findings, recently published in the journal Psychological Reports: Disability and Trauma showed that social media-related “addictions” share some neural features with substance and gambling addictions.

Since the meteoric rise of the internet usage and emergence of various social media platforms, many young Indians have been left socially isolated and lonely.

It’s time for a reality check in our backyard.

Take Krishnan (name changed), a 15-year-old social media addict in the capital, who recently visited Dr Sameer Malhotra, director, mental health and behavioural sciences at Max Healthcare.

Hooked on to Facebook for nearly 16 hours a day, he had developed an obsessive personality profile and was neglecting priorities of life, including education.

“I have been seeing many youngsters who are in the grip of social media addiction. In the case of Krishnan, I treated him with both counselling and medication which helped channelise his energy in positive work,” Dr Malhotra told reporters.

“Facebook addiction is similar to cocaine addiction to a certain level as there are certain neurochemicals like dopamine which operate across brain reward pathways and are responsible for maintaining addictive behaviour,” he said.

According to Dr Malhotra, teenagers with Facebook addiction-like symptoms may “have a hyperactive amygdala-striatal system, which makes this ‘addiction’ similar to many other addictions.”

For Dr Samir Parikh, director of the department of mental health and behavioural Science, Fortis Healthcare, excessive use of social media is a common trend today and such preoccupation leads to an interference in one’s social, occupational as well as other areas of functioning.

“Yes, it could be considered similar to drug addiction to a certain level though it is not exactly the same. The difference is more in terms of the physiological manifestations involved in the influence of a substance,” Dr Parikh told reporters.

Addiction is defined as repetitive habit pattern that increases the risk of diseases or associated personal and social problems. It is a subjective experience of “loss of control”.

Addiction connotes dependence because there are common neurochemical and neuroanatomical pathways found among all addictions- whether it is substance, gambling, sex, eating, internet use or Facebook obsession.

“They all display similar patterns of behaviour like the inability to abstain, impairment in behaviour control, craving, diminished recognition of significant behavioural problems, interpersonal issues and a dysfunctional emotional response,” says Dr Birendra Yadav, psychology clinical operations at telehealth venture- Poccare, Healthenablr.

Experts say Facebook addiction can lead to impulse-control disorders, especially among adolescents where it has led to high prevalence of depression, aggressive behaviour and psychiatric symptoms.

The social media has also been found to have affected lifestyles, resulting in irregular dietary habits, decreased physical activity, short duration of sleep and increased use of alcohol and tobacco.

Is it true that getting out of Facebook addiction is easier than that of substance abuse?

“This is subjective and depends on the context, personality and state of mind of the individual concerned and you need to build the willpower of the person through both counselling and medication,” Dr Malhotra says.

“Overcoming any kind of addiction is possible with adequate professional interventions,” Dr Parikh said.

The bottom line: use social media, but do not let it take over your life. Investing time in “real” relationships rather than in the cyber world can lead to improved mental health, say experts. (Nishant Arora, IANS)

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Blind Facebook employee is developing tech for sightless

At Facebook, he works on features to help people with disabilities use the platform.

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  • A blind Facebook employee is developing AI to make social network for sightless fun
  • He is developing AI which will verbalise images and videos
  • This technology will enable alt-text for images and videos

A blind Facebook employee is developing a technology that will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to verbalise the content of an image or video and enable the visually impaired to “see” and determine appropriate content for people and advertisers.

Facebook engineer Matt King is leading a project that is making solutions for visually impaired people on the platform that could eventually be used to identify images and videos that violate Facebook’s terms of use or that advertisers want to avoid.

Also Read : Facebook might bring Stories on desktop 

This feature will verbalise images and videos for the visually impaired. Image Source: Reuters
This feature will verbalise images and videos for the visually impaired. Image Source: Reuters

“More than two billion photos are shared across Facebook every single day. That’s a situation where a machine-based solution adds a lot more value than a human-based solution ever could,” CNBC quoted King as saying late on Saturday.

King, who was born with a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, lost his vision by the time he got his degree and started working at IBM with the tech giant’s accessibility projects.

He worked on a screen reader to help visually impaired people “see” what is on their screens either through audio cues or a braille device. IBM eventually developed the first screen reader for a graphical interface.

He worked with the accessibility team till Facebook hired him from IBM in 2015.

The man behind this development is Matt King.
The man behind this development is Matt King.

At Facebook, he works on features to help people with disabilities use the platform, like adding captions to videos or coming up with ways to navigate the site using only audio cues.

“Anybody who has any kind of disability can benefit from Facebook. They can develop beneficial connections and understand their disability doesn’t have to define them, to limit them,” King said.

Also Read : Facebook Profit Escalates with No Major Impact from Russia and it’s Advertisements

One of his main projects is “automated alt-text,” which describes audibly what is in Facebook images.

When automated alt-text was launched in April 2016, it was only available in five languages on the iOS app. Today it is available in over 29 languages on Facebook on the web, iOS and Android.

Facebook is available in more than 29 languages across the world. Pixabay
Facebook is available in more than 29 languages across the world. Pixabay

“The things people post most frequently kind of has a limited vocabulary associated with it,” the Facebook engineer said.

“It makes it possible for us to have one of those situations where if you can tackle 20 per cent of the solution, it tackles 80 per cent of the problem. It’s getting that last 20 per cent which is a lot of work, but we’re getting there,” he said.

In December 2017, Facebook pushed an automatic alt-text update that used facial recognition to help visually impaired people find out who is in photos. IANS