There are many great reasons to love Twitter, including the role tweeting has played in political activism and social good. So why am I bothering you with this article about Twitter addiction?
Because we’re in a time when our brains are being targeted from all directions. And we don’t even realize the extent to which this is happening. Twitter addiction is very real. With little effort, it rewards your brain in an instant with things we humans crave: immediate attention and feedback.
The power clicking addictions have over us
These are rewards we often do not get in person. Instead, we’ve learned to feel rewarded at a distance. One or more steps removed from face-to-face human contact. And we’ve even come to treasure that connection, sometimes giving it more value than actual in-person human contact.
Plus, as a highly-addictable bonus, Twitter (as well as other social media) also offers the ability to give and get “likes.” And, as silly as that may seem, this makes us feel even more valued. Best of all, it takes little thought or effort to bestow this reward on others.
Adding to the temptation, social media companies like Twitter exist to grow. And in order to grow, they need more clicks — more eyeballs on their pages. That’s why their marketing is devoted to getting you “hooked” — and to getting you to click and like and follow and come back as often as possible.
The Cow Clicker Story
So now I have to tell you the Cow Clicker story, if you don’t already know it. Developed by Ian Bogost, Cow Clicker was a game originally meant to be a satire of online games. But the oddly addictive game of clicks caught fire.
And the adorable cows became irresistibly clickable. Yes, even addictive. When Bogost brought it to an end, many cow clickers felt devastated by the loss and emptiness. It was as if they were going through withdrawal from a drug. [You can read the full story here.]
Is Twitter addiction really hijacking your brain?
Yes it is. Especially if you’re one of the many people who feel compelled to go on Twitter throughout the day. Look, I’m not saying it’s as bad as drugs — although maybe for some it is. And for some, it really is their work.
But for a large number of you, it calls in the same way a next meal does when you’re on a diet. It’s all you can think of. Even while taking care of work. Or, maybe if not feeling pulled to click while actually doing work, the call comes as soon as a free moment opens up. “Check me!” “Click me!” “Feed me!”
Why does this matter? Because those free moments are when creativity can flourish. But in a culture where free moments seem to be confused with the horrors of boredom — and with so many things vying for our attention — we may be losing something precious.
And it’s not just Twitter addiction at fault. Facebook. Instagram. Email. Texting. The list goes on. You’re part of the social fabric. It feels alive and satisfying. And this is true at home as well as work. But are those totally filled-in time spaces really serving YOU well? Worth thinking about.
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