Facebook is far and away the biggest social networking site in the world, and it’s also one of the most visited websites overall. Despite many users’ frustrations with its privacy practices and advertising efforts, the site so far shows no signs of slowing down. As spelled out by The Next Web in a blog post this week, there’s a good reason for that: the site satisfies some of our deepest psychological needs.
First of all, Facebook allows us to control our friends’ perceptions of ourselves, which in turn boosts our self-esteem. (Of course, Facebook has also been shown to cause depression resulting from a “fear of missing out,” so it’s effects on us go both ways.) Facebook also encourages extroverts to express themselves without any fear of social consequences, thus encouraging already-social people to put themselves out there that much more. The result: an experience that can ensnare us in addiction before we even know what happened.
“We may originally register on Facebook in order to be connected to our friends but, without realizing it, the site becomes an addictive habit because we discover that it provides us with subconscious psychological rewards,” wrote Dr. Liraz Margalit. “Over time, this loop becomes more and more automatic as it is imprinted in our neural pathways.”
It’s scary to realize, but there’s also no denying it: Facebook is a powerful influence not just online but in many user’s actual lives. And that’s not likely to change any time soon.