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While reading the chapter “The Pleasure Machine” from Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy by Siva Vaidhyanathan, I reflected on my experience with social media. I remember as a teenager in middle school when Instagram became THE THING. Everyone was on it, and if you weren’t, you were considered weird, or you were believed to have really strict parents. It is embarrassing now, looking back at what my peers and I were putting on the platform. We were putting endless selfies, pictures of random things, and pictures of us doing exciting things. 

While a trip down memory lane is fun, why were we all doing this? What was our end goal?

My answer for this can be found in some of the thoughts I had in the early days of social media, and I hate to say it, but sometimes even now. As you scroll through social media, try to catch what you are thinking when you see someone on vacation somewhere cool or doing something you wish you were doing. My guess is that you are thinking something along the lines of ‘wish that was me’ or ‘I want to do that.’ I know I have and do too.

So we post on social media platforms, but why do I get lost in scrolling on them? 

This question is answered in “The Pleasure Machine.” Vaidhyanathan compares the social media platform’s algorithms to that of eating potato chips. You are likely to feel not feel satisfied or not have enjoyed eating only one potato chip, so you will keep eating them. Vaidhyanathan explains more in-depth about the mechanics of this pattern in the chapter. But put simply, we keep scrolling because we don’t get satisfied or dissatisfied after seeing one post on social media.

ChatGPT was given the prompt of: Can you write a 250 word blog post about the addictiveness of Social Media based on the chapter “The Pleasure Machine” in the book Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy?

ChatGPT’s response:

Title: The Pleasure Machine: Unveiling the Addictiveness of Social Media

In his groundbreaking book “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy,” Siva Vaidhyanathan delves into the intricate web of social media and exposes the addictive nature of these platforms. The chapter titled “The Pleasure Machine” offers a profound insight into how social media captivates our attention and keeps us hooked, often to the detriment of our well-being.

Social media platforms are designed with one primary goal in mind: to keep us engaged for as long as possible. They achieve this through a meticulously crafted system of likes, shares, comments, and notifications. Each interaction triggers a release of dopamine, the brain’s pleasure chemical, creating a cycle of instant gratification that keeps us scrolling endlessly.

Vaidhyanathan argues that this constant dopamine rush leads to a form of addiction, comparable to substance abuse. Users often find themselves mindlessly scrolling through their feeds, seeking that next hit of validation or entertainment. The addictive nature of social media isn’t a mere coincidence; it’s a well-planned strategy implemented by these platforms to ensure we remain loyal customers.

As users, we must recognize the manipulative tactics at play and take steps to break free from the clutches of social media addiction. Setting boundaries, limiting screen time, and curating our online experience can help us regain control of our digital lives.

In conclusion, “The Pleasure Machine” chapter in “Antisocial Media” sheds light on the addictiveness of social media, which is intricately designed to keep us hooked. Understanding these mechanisms is the first step toward regaining control over our digital lives and ensuring that social media serves us rather than the other way around.


  1. I think that it’s interesting how ChatGPT said that Vaidhyanathan’s work was “groundbreaking.” This book was written in 2018 and I feel like I read a lot of articles like his before then. Nothing he said really seemed to stand out from those. I think this is an example of ChatGPT just stitching together words that appear in blog posts about books.

  2. It’s interesting how ChatGPT hallucinates neurochemistry into Vaidhyanathan’s argument. While it’s not hard to see how it could be connected to what he’s writing about, Chat imagines that it should be there (I suspect) based on the keyword addicting.

    I’m curious, Traci: why do you consider your past posts on Instagram to be embarrassing? Is that something we all feel when looking at our pasts?

  3. I’ve never been one to use much social media (not for any outside reason, only that I’ve never had much of a desire to) but I find I relate to the potato chip analogy when it comes to modern short-form video content. I’ve never used TikTok, but I have fallen into watching Youtube Shorts, which is essentially the same thing, and I catch myself scrolling sometimes, just gambling my time away waiting for a potentially entertaining video. It’s a waste and I’m never really left satisfied, but the idea that if you keep trying you could eventually find something satisfying is enticing.

  4. I think this potato chip analogy is really useful for looking at social media usage. As social media is condensed into short posts, I think we may tell ourselves that we can stop at any time, as there is no actual end to the content like there would be in a game or other conventional media. However, each post alone is so small that it doesn’t bring the satisfaction of other media types, and even after eating enough chips to equal a large bag, you likely won’t feel satisfied either, but we continue until we receive some level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

  5. Honestly, that potato chip analogy stuck in my mind. In the moment, one feels like nothing, and you don’t really realize how much you’ve consumed until your hand reaches the bottom of the bag. (or you look at your phone’s screen time report) And after the fact, I’m left wishing sometimes that I had done something better than just scrolling.

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