Is Facebook Toxifying Your Heart + Brain?

LIKE it or not, everyone has some kind of relationship with Facebook.

We either LOVE it and post-scroll-engage all day long, we HATE it and have deleted our profile, or we just kind of TOLERATE it and stay minimally updated, occasionally high-fiving people, projects and posts.

Lately there’s a lot of buzz about the ills of Facebook and social media –  what they are doing to our brains, hearts, lives. 

Like claims from ex-Facebook execs Sean Parker and Chamath Palihapitiya who say that that Facebook exploits a vulnerability in human psychology – that all our scrolling, liking, bumping and tweeting is eroding our relationships and even “ripping apart” society.

It’s hard to argue with that. Have a peek at their videos (links are up^there, if you haven’t read the hype).  

Teenagers eyeball social media an average of 9 HOURS A DAY. The average consumer grabs his or her smartphone 150 times a day – and swipes or taps it over 2000 times. AVERAGE.

It’s no surprise that institutions are lining up to try to slap regulations on Facebook and Google so they GROW UP and quit propagating digital addiction.   

But SERIOUSLY, folks. Are we really going to wait for Facebook and Google to do something about it?

Because the real problem is NOT FACEBOOK. Or Twitter. Or Instagram. It’s that gaping vulnerability in human psychology that keeps us clicking, scrolling, swiping, liking, chatting.

Facebook was just an accident waiting to happen.

This highly-exploitable human vulnerability had already been wreaking havoc in our relationships, our psyches and our lives CENTURIES before Mark Zuckerberg rolled into town.

Social media has just fattened up the part of our brains that’s so needy of LIKE. And hooked the part of our brains that feels lonely and insecure and bored and unfulfilled.

But we should actually THANK Facebook, et al., for bringing this to our attention, because it gives us something work with that can actually improve our lives. 

Because the truth is that we are bred to LIKE and NOT LIKE, want and not want. All our mental processes are linked to this bi-directional mental movement: Like. Don’t like. Move toward. Move away. Want. Don’t want.

Photo by  Bruno Gomeiro

Photo by Bruno Gomeiro

Our head is full of it all day long.

Pretty sight – LIKE. Bad smell – DON’T LIKE. Nice clothing – LIKE. Good hair – LIKE. Tasty meal – LIKE. Ugly building – DON’T LIKE. Exciting commercial – LIKE. Smelly person – DON’T LIKE.

To a certain extent, it’s fine. It’s no big deal. Who cares if I like jazz and don’t like metal or like Picasso but not Dali?

The problem comes when more and more things (people) fall into these categories, because I also DON’T LIKE anything that gets in the way of having what I LIKE.

LIKE and DON’T LIKE become WANT and DON’T WANT, because I WANT more of what I LIKE, and I DON’T WANT what I DON’T LIKE.

You follow? : )

And then I feel DISSATISFIED because I DON’T HAVE what I WANT and  FRUSTRATED because I DON’T LIKE what I HAVE.

This constant mental movement – like, don’t like, want, don’t want – breeds discontent and insecurity. We are constantly CRAWLING away from what we DON'T like and RUNNING as fast as we can toward what we DO like.

And if we go macro, we can easily see how this feeds jealousy, envy, xenophobia, intolerance, discrimination, hate.

The good thing is that at the MICRO level, this is totally workable, reversible, erasable. We can detox DAILY – at home, on the street, in the store, at the office, while driving, at the gym.  Brilliant to work on with your kids – at the dinner table.


They stretch us, squeeze us, fascinate us, wake us up and produce HUGE results in our minds, lives, relationships and quality of experience.

Play with them anywhere, anytime
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1.  NOTICE your running commentary on the weather, politics, people. Oh, I love that. I can’t stand that. The constant attraction and repulsion. The incessant labeling of everything that crosses our paths. So fascinating!

3. ASK yourself WHY you (your kids, your friends) all like certain things and not others. LIKE is often “feel comfortable with.” And that often means we shut the door on new experiences, new cultures, new people, fresh ways of thinking. Open it up. Shine a light on it.

2.  REVERSE your likes. Move toward things you have NOT LIKED in the past – people, foods, places, points of view. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong what you think. I’m just saying that staying on the same track makes our minds SMALLER and more RIGID and LESS BRIGHT.

4. EXPLORE wanting less. Since I LIKE breeds I WANT, and I WANT keeps me from enjoying what I HAVE, it’s a great idea to reflect and reduce. Wanting LESS is, in fact, one of the secrets to a good life. Declutter, simplify, decide to NOT buy.

5. OBSERVE this motion of the mind. It’s there all day, every day. 

Bringing awareness to this dark little spot on human psychology that Facebook has so kindly illuminated might just be the best thing that ever happened to our minds, hearts, relationships, lives.

When we reflect on LIKE and WANT and inch more toward the center – where LIKE and DISLIKE merge – we become more flexible, easy-going, openhearted humans.

Thanks, Facebook! 👍🏽

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Sonja Shahan