OPINION: AI Is Powering a New Type of Addiction

Photo by Kev Costello from Unsplash.

“I started using social media when I was 12 years old,” says Emily J., a Bellevue College student. “At first, it was just for fun. But it quickly became addictive. I would reach for my phone to check my social media accounts the second I woke up. I would stay up late at night scrolling through my recommended posts. Social media seemed more interesting than anything else around me. I knew that if I wanted to focus on school and work, I had to make a change.”

Have you ever scrolled on social media for hours and felt like you could not stop? That is no accident. Many popular social media apps are backed by powerful artificial intelligence (AI) that is purposefully designed to keep you using the apps for as long as possible.

Axiom Elite documents that over “98 percent of college-aged students use social media.” As reported in BetterYou, the typical college student spends an average of two hours on social media every day. 

Recommendation AI is scarily effective at keeping users mindlessly scrolling through social media posts. It knows you better than you know yourself. It analyzes data that it gathers, such as how long you watch each post, what posts you like and what accounts you interact with the most, and, based on that information, it recommends posts that will keep you scrolling.

AI tricks social media users into believing that the information they are constantly consuming is useful to them, but the truth is that you are being sucked into a black hole of wasting time so that social media apps can generate more ad revenue. This causes a great loss of productivity, especially in college students, who are the economic future of the country. As documented in Econlife, approximately 13% of economic productivity is lost due to excessive amounts of time wasted on social media.

One of the best ways to overcome an addiction to social media apps is quitting them cold turkey. Telling yourself to only use the apps for a short time period almost never works. You might say, “I will only go on TikTok for 10 minutes,” and then you will check the time and realize that 30 minutes have passed. So, to effectively increase your productivity and chances of academic success, you might want to consider deleting all AI-powered social media apps, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You might miss being connected to others on social media and seeing what your friends are up to, but time is wealth, and using your time on things other than social media will help you achieve long-term success. 

The next time you find yourself spending hours on social media, remember that the AI behind popular social apps is engineered to keep you hooked to maximize their profits. So, get it out of your life.