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I see it a lot particularly with regard to facebook. People take "I have a problem" and turn it in to "this thing is a problem".

One big difference is that alcohol was not engineered to be addictive. Whereas at Facebook and many other companies there are a lot of smart people continuously trying to improve metrics like DAU, UAM, response frequency, etc. And they do it with no apparent regard for the impact on users' lives. Heck, many game companies proudly advertise how they are the most addictive thing you can get right now.

Well okay sure, but engineered or not, alcohol is very addictive. There are probably more addictive substances, but alcohol really is up there on that list. You could probably engineer a better addictive substance, but not one nearly as pervasive in global culture.

There's something truly unique about alcohol that isn't true of any other addictive substance on the planet.

> There's something truly unique about alcohol that isn't true of any other addictive substance on the planet.

Except nicotine, sugar, caffeine, etc.

Honestly I'd say your argument is a much better fit for sugar.

I'm saying this as someone who went off it for a few years, and now back on it, trying to quit.

Tremendously addictive, and it's EVERYWHERE.

Birthday? Cake. Meeting up with friends? Drinks. Easter? Candy. Date? Chocolate. Did something good? Reward with cookies.

I sound like I'm on some bandwagon, but I'm not trying to argue that honey or agave or anything else is better, but there's very little sugar naturally in any real food, and we can't escape it.

Alcohol is at most gatherings, but it really isn't nearly as pervasive.


By the way, if you're looking for a way to get a clean break from sugar, following the paleo induction plan "Whole30" has worked well for me. The initial withdrawal symptoms are not fun, but the limited time span and the clarity of the program made it relatively easy to do.

Feel free to email if you want to discuss. I'm so glad to be off it again; I feel healthier and my mood is so much more positive and even.

Thanks! I'll look into it.

I didn't have any trouble quitting last time, but having a family and more commitments now makes it tougher to completely revamp your habits.

What I find most fascinating is how I can look outside myself and notice how my rational brain time and time again gets disregarded by impulse, while knowing what I know. It's like observing someone else.

I have clear memories and notes over how (as you describe) my mood was better and I felt healthier, yet an immediate impulse with a fleeting effect takes priority, while knowing it will only prolong the problem.

Somehow I've never really had a sweet tooth at all. I usually decline sweet foods when people are handing around cake or cookies, or only accept to be polite and take a small slice. But get some nice savoury food near me and I'll scarf it all down. For some reason umami is to me what sugar is to others.

I'm the same way. I call it a salty tooth. I couldn't care less about desserts, but if someone offers me some smelly camembert, or bread and olive tapenade, or a bonito rice ball, you better watch out because it's all going into my mouth.

Aren't fruits full of sugar?

The problem with sugar is, IMO, glycemic index. With glucose being an index of 100, no sugar being an index of 0, and something that takes a moderate amount of time to convert from starches/etc to sugar being 50, things that are higher than 50-60 tend to spike your blood sugar and cause insulin to scavenge the sugar out and store it in fat. Doing that often causes things like insulin resistance and obesity as you get hungry again when your blood sugar drops.

Fruits have a surprisingly low glycemic index because they aren't processed and you have to get through fiber and digest the cells before having access to all of the sugar. I've changed my diet to avoid sugar and notice that I very rarely feel actively hungry/crashy vs. before, and most fruit is just fine.


I checked the table you linked and:

Apple: 38 Banana: 51 Pineapple: 66 Watermelon: 72


Ice Cream (premium): 37 Sponge Cake: 46 Frosted Flakes: 55 Snicker's Bar: 55

Fruits really are very high GI compared to regular snack foods. They're relatively healthy for other reasons though.

A perhaps better measure is glycemic load, which takes mass into account. 400 calories of frosted flakes is about 100g. 400 calories of watermelon is 1.3kg. Watermelon's glycemic index is worse, but at reasonable serving sizes, fruits generally end up being way better.

You also cherry picked, figuratively speaking. More literally, you didn't pick the cherries at an index of 22. There are a lot of fruits in the 20s to 40s. I tend to stay away from both pineapple and watermelon.

Sure, that is naturally occuring, and I wouldn't advise eating too much of it either, but at least the ratio is offset by a lot of fiber (and water), so you get somewhat full.

But I get your point, it shouldn't really be about what's naturally occuring, but how it affects your body. I stay away from fruit as well.

> There's something truly unique about alcohol that isn't true of any other addictive substance on the planet.

Alcohol is a viable a substitute for carbohydrates for feeding nerve cells. Ethanol -> acetate -> ATP. Some research was published a few years ago about how the brains of heavy drinkers switch to running on acetate....


Huh. It looks like alcohol is in the middle of the common drugs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substance_dependence#Dependenc...

I'm not sure about pervasiveness, though. In the US, a lot more people are caffeine dependent. And Facebook's MAU is way higher than alcohol's.

pervasiveness is a factor. If you think of the addiction as an "infection" then relapse/reinfection is a lot easier when the reinfection vectors are pervasive.

I read this in a drug information pamphlet a long time ago; basically it said that cocaine and heroin both bind to a different set of receptors to the other, but alcohol binds to both. Which is what makes it uniquely addictive. Its obviously not as strong as either of those drugs but combines the nature of both.

the worst part? affecting children, in which Yes it's the parent's responsibilities...

But there only so much parents can do AND there is this thing called 'sense of belonging' that influence kids to be as much as their peers

What you're both implying is that, unless something is EVERYONE'S problem, no one should share their experiences. The author constantly makes the case that maybe this is too extreme for you, and you can choose not to do it. But for a lot of us here, as is clear from the activity on this thread, this IS a problem, and I'm glad the author made the post.

But Facebook is a problem. Social media has its place somewhere in society but Facebook in particular is definitely a problem, for a multitude of reasons.

Care to list some?

As a digital nomad for the past several months, Facebook has been crucial in keeping in touch with friends and family back home, but also a perfect platform for staying in contact with new friends I make on my travels :-)

I am an immigrant. I've been living mostly away from home for 10 years. I have people (friends, relatives, family, people that I know and love) that are easily reachable on Facebook. I deleted my facebook account and realized that I can still reach all the people I want to reach if I had really wanted to. Stuff that is "on Facebook" seems optional to me. When the only way I know them is their Facebook profile then I'm fucked. Now I learned to ask people for their email addresses, I personally think it will live far longer than Facebook.

are you american or what?

That's really insane man. Take care of yourself. :)

Sorry, I can no longer edit my comment, so I am adding another comment here. I'm in no way criticizing your way of communication. I think Facebook is an excellent communication tool.

However, to me, there is something special about emails that makes them a much personal way to communicate. When I send an email to a friend, I feel like I made a personal connection. I feel I like the person a lot more when I write an email to them and get an email back. When I commented on/liked a facebook status, it just feels like it's some shit I have to do when I am bored. Since I deleted my facebook, it turns out that there are very few friends/acquaintances that I added on Facebook that I feel like I need to connect on a personal level. That's very strange.

I'm a few months into the no-facebook game and it certainly is strange to realize how vacant most of our interactions on the platform were.

In some ways it feels like I've never been this lonely before. It makes me realize just how superficial most of my connections really were. I moved around a lot and had a sizable group of friends I would interact with on facebook, but now that it's gone... only three of them still make the effort to text or call me at least once a week to catch up. Sure, I have more friends who are simply indisposed and busy, but because they have social media they don't seek much interaction outside of it and so we don't talk.

It honestly hurts and the last two nights I've actually broken into long crying fits over how lonely I feel, because I feel like I don't connect with anyone, even the people I do talk to. I know facebook wasn't providing that level of connection I desired, but I realized it had tricked me into thinking it did. I realized that in the past, when I felt this kind of loneliness-induced depression creeping up, I would get on social media just to look at other human beings and remind me I'm not on a rock by myself and other people are dealing with the same emotions. Decent short-term solution for getting rid of the symptoms, but it did nothing to address the problem itself.

Incentivised social media like Facebook is really not healthy for the developing psyche. It's shaped the way I think and feel, and what triggers my brain's reward systems, and now I'm suffering for it.

It's not a problem per-se IMO, but Facebook is highly optimized for being addictive. They A/B test the addiction out of it!

There's a GREAT book that I am careful recommending as indeed I think it explores ideas that can be abused easily: Hooked, how to build habit-forming products ( https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hooked-How-Build-Habit-Forming-Prod... )

I'll list two because I've been on HN too long today already.

1) Facebook is part of an initiative to lay down internet infrastructure in Africa, with the catch being that access to Facebook, Google, et al. is heavily subsidized. They are attempting to trap an entire continent on their platform, with subsidized tax money, knowingly simultaneously creating the most advanced social monitoring tool ever to exist. The CIA already has "social unrest" prediction mechanisms and, regardless of what some people involved think they're doing it for, this tool will be used to enslave the continent, continue preventing its people from achieving economic parity with the West, and provide better data for three-letter agencies to use in their sociopolitical and economic targeting (targeted propaganda, red herring social issues, media blackouts, even full-scale political coups)

I have not read this article but I was in a hurry to find a source to give you. I'm hoping the Guardian doesn't let me down here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/01/facebook-free-...

2) They have better data than anyone else with respect to gauging addicting user behavior, and instead of taking the Nintendo approach ("Why don't you take a break and play outside?") they actively exploit these behavioral patterns to increase user engagement. 1/4 of the world's population exists on an insulating platform that does not have their interests in mind. They are unwittingly paving Facebook a permanent highway over our social systems. This creates negatively-reinforcing social vacuums and a massive chilling and normalization effect. But even worse than this normalization is the ideological reinforcement and mass hyper-emotional response that tends to result from an network of humans all checking their emotional response against others in a social vacuum. To make things even worse, Facebook capitalizes here as well and exploits users' emotional response mechanisms.

Here's a paper from a few years ago exploring this concept. I wanted to find a more recent article that was quite good but I couldn't locate it with a quick search:


The article I wanted to find mentioned one of the ways Facebook would exploit peoples' emotions to provoke their addictive behavior:

Facebook knows John spends about 10 minutes going through his feed at a time. During work hours, this number is 3 minutes. Right when Facebook thinks John might be about to put his phone away, they will suddenly show him a post from a friend he likes. He might stick around a little longer and comment. He scrolls a little more just because he is used to the behavior, and when Facebook thinks he is about to leave again they show him a post from someone he doesn't like. Bonus points if Facebook has determined the post is positive in nature. This triggers a negative emotional response in John and he scrolls a while longer, looking for a post that will give him another dopamine rush and return his "happiness" to him.

It's disgusting. It's predatory. It's abusive. It's no different than the CIA knowingly spreading crack and fentanyl to control the population and create pockets of crime that call for increased enforcement.

I am really curious about this last technique you mentioned (predicting when the user might be about to put their phone away and intervening at that moment with enticing content). If you remember any clues that might lead to it, or find it again, please post. Thanks!

I still couldn't find it and it really bugs me. If I do, I'll shoot you a PM.

In my search, I did come across this[0] and it concerned me. Seems like Facebook is expanding the ability of its users to enforce the chilling effect by allowing them to report "mentally unhealthy" posts so the users can be targeted for behavioral modification and automatic reporting to mental health agencies, as opposed to say, just messaging their friend directly and saying, "Hey, you OK man? You seem a bit sad."

They are also using ML to do the same thing, automatically. Just further separating us in the name of bringing us together.

[0] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-facebooks-mac...

GeoHot talked about FB in a few interviews how they used machine learning entirely for the purposes of tricking people into using FB more, which is why he quit working there.

Never knew GeoHot worked at Facebook! What was he thinking?!


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