It is probably no coincidence that Mark Zuckerberg was studying both computer science and psychology. Because due to basic psychological mechanisms, millions of people worldwide are spending a lot of their time on social platforms. Even during sex, as a study conducted in 2016 has shown. However, the practical benefits attributed to social networks play a subordinate role, says English media scientist Marcus Gilroy-Ware in his recent book "Filling the Void". "Wiener Zeitung" spoke to the author about why people waste their time on social networks and how Facebook is  commercialising friendships.

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"Wiener Zeitung": Social Networks cause sleeplessness, loss of time, lack of emotional well being: Many studies have shown that the more people use Social Networks like Facebook, the unhappier they are. Why are we using them then?

Marcus Gilroy-Ware writes about media, technology and society. He teaches digital cultures at the University of the West of England and University of London.

  - © Francis Ware
Marcus Gilroy-Ware writes about media, technology and society. He teaches digital cultures at the University of the West of England and University of London.
  - © Francis Ware

Marcus Gilroy-Ware: Countless studies show positive correlations between the problems you’ve mentioned and social media use, but only very few actually claim to show an explicit causation. Strangely, rather than mystifying the problem, this may be part of the answer. Rather than a simple "social media are bad for you" analysis, it may be more accurate to say that this positive correlation can be accounted for with a simultaneous causation in both directions – a circular process or "feedback loop".

Could you please explain in detail?  

Social media very likely are bad for our emotional wellbeing, in the same way that chocolate is technically bad for you depending on how much you consume, but just as with chocolate and other highly palatable food, we also increase our consumption of it when under duress. So, with depression for example, social media use may make us more depressed—and there are some studies that claim to show this, but depression likely also leads to compensatory media consumption. The same pattern is also possible with other, less serious forms of poor emotional wellbeing, and it’s a cruel thing to benefit from this pattern commercially, when you think about it. So long as there are people desperate to "fill the void" with something, capitalism will continue to sell mostly ersatz non-solutions for a profit, even if these products kill us or make us unhealthy when overconsumed.

If Social Networks are an escape and a compensation: What from and what for?