Saturday November 17, 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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How To Deal With Online Hate Speech: A Detailed Guide By Facebook

Critics of the company, however, said Zuckerberg hasn't gone far enough to address the inherent problems of Facebook, which has 2 billion users.

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Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
A television photographer shoots the sign outside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. VOA

Facebook says it is getting better at proactively removing hate speech and changing the incentives that result in the most sensational and provocative content becoming the most popular on the site.

The company has done so, it says, by ramping up its operations so that computers can review and make quick decisions on large amounts of content with thousands of reviewers making more nuanced decisions.

In the future, if a person disagrees with Facebook’s decision, he or she will be able to appeal to an independent review board.

Facebook “shouldn’t be making so many important decisions about free expression and safety on our own,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a call with reporters Thursday.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at a Facebook developers conference in San Jose, California. VOA

But as Zuckerberg detailed what the company has accomplished in recent months to crack down on spam, hate speech and violent content, he also acknowledged that Facebook has far to go.

“There are issues you never fix,” he said. “There’s going to be ongoing content issues.”

Company’s actions

In the call, Zuckerberg addressed a recent story in The New York Times that detailed how the company fought back during some of its biggest controversies over the past two years, such as the revelation of how the network was used by Russian operatives in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Times story suggested that company executives first dismissed early concerns about foreign operatives, then tried to deflect public attention away from Facebook once the news came out.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France. VOA

Zuckerberg said the firm made mistakes and was slow to understand the enormity of the issues it faced. “But to suggest that we didn’t want to know is simply untrue,” he said.

Zuckerberg also said he didn’t know the firm had hired Definers Public Affairs, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm that spread negative information about Facebook competitors as the social networking firm was in the midst of one scandal after another. Facebook severed its relationship with the firm.

“It may be normal in Washington, but it’s not the kind of thing I want Facebook associated with, which is why we won’t be doing it,” Zuckerberg said.

The firm posted a rebuttal to the Times story.

Content removed

Facebook said it is getting better at proactively finding and removing contentsuch as spam, violent posts and hate speech. The company said it removed or took other action on 15.4 million pieces of violent content between June and September of this year, about double what it removed in the prior three months.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

But Zuckerberg and other executives said Facebook still has more work to do in places such as Myanmar. In the third quarter, the firm said it proactively identified 63 percent of the hate speech it removed, up from 13 percent in the last quarter of 2017. At least 100 Burmese language experts are reviewing content, the firm said.

One issue that continues to dog Facebook is that some of the most popular content is also the most sensational and provocative. Facebook said it now penalizes what it calls “borderline content” so it gets less distribution and engagement.

“By fixing this incentive problem in our services, we believe it’ll create a virtuous cycle: by reducing sensationalism of all forms, we’ll create a healthier, less-polarized discourse where more people feel safe participating,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post.

Also Read: Facebook to Establish an Independent Body to Moderate Content

Critics of the company, however, said Zuckerberg hasn’t gone far enough to address the inherent problems of Facebook, which has 2 billion users.

“We have a man-made, for-profit, simultaneous communication space, marketplace and battle space and that it is, as a result, designed not to reward veracity or morality but virality,” said Peter W. Singer, strategist and senior fellow at New America, a nonpartisan think tank, at an event Thursday in Washington, D.C. (VOA)