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Facebook informs me that I joined the site 10 years ago today. They even made me a cute video to “celebrate” and of course, they’re hoping I will share. I’m certain that Mark Zuckerberg himself is having a little office party at headquarters in appreciation of my ten years of wasting thousands of hours on Facebook.

During those hours, I mostly see a lot of things that I don’t want to see, like upsetting news, political posts, or stupid (and every once in awhile mildly entertaining) memes or cat videos. It drives me crazy that any time I “like” something, a choice of clickable “related” posts, by various media outlets that I would never read, pop up next in my newsfeed. And it’s totally creepy that I will immediately see ads for anything I looked at anywhere on the internet; because I googled a question about how to care for a wool rug, I’m now seeing ads for new rugs. Ugh.

Very occasionally I see a personal share or photo from someone I care about and even more occasionally I share something that sparks a few comments. Likes and hearts are fairly meaningless at this point but if my friends actually engage with me or share something meaningful themselves, that gives me a feeling of real connection and that’s what keeps me coming back to FB to scroll my news feed several times a day.

Yesterday I read a quote by David Greenfield, author of the book “Virtual Addiction” that nails it for me. He says, “Your brain is guiding you toward rewards that you either imagine or hope will be there. It’s not conscious like ‘Oh! I’m gonna go on and see everything I want.’ It’s that you get rewarded intermittently, and you don’t know when the reward will be there, or what it’s going to be.” Bingo.

A feeling of connection is the reward I crave and I don’t think I’m alone in that. So many of us are isolated in our lives, living in our single family homes or apartments without true community or regular get-togethers with large numbers of the people we care about. My parents are gone, my kids live far away, most of my friends are not local, and my work life is very insular and doesn’t allow for reciprocal relationships outside of my office. I’m grateful to have a loving and supportive partner to share my day to day with and I actually enjoy my own company but I still yearn for more contact with my beloveds, thus I keep coming back to Facebook. But with all the garbage that most people are posting and the valueless ease of a “like” or some other emoji, the reward is seriously intermittent. Of course, anyone who understands how behaviorism works will get that this is the very thing that makes the draw so strong.

I keep saying I’m going to quit this FB habit and maybe I will. Right after I read everyone’s comments on this post.