May 19, 2017

An anxious caveman. Credit: Alfer22 / Flickr Creative Commons

Why do you check Facebook so much? Or email? Or your Twitter feed? It’s not because they bring us joy, but because they reduce anxiety, according to journalist Sharon Begley. Begley is author of the book Can’t Just Stop: An Investigation of Compulsions, and she dives deep into the science and psychology of compulsive behavior.  

Three Takeaways: 

  • Compulsive behaviors aren’t necessarily bad. If they reduce your anxiety and aren’t impairing your ability to function, Begley says they can mean you’re coping with life in a positive way. 
  • Begley claims that we’re seeing more and more compulsive behaviors, because our world is more and more anxiety-inducing.
  • According to Begley, there’s an evolutionary reason for our anxiety. If our ancestors weren’t anxious about predators and threats, they wouldn’t have survived long enough to become our ancestors.  

More Reading: 

  • We ran profiles of two titans who engaged in compulsive behavior, H.J. Heinz and Estée Lauder
  • Sharon Begley wrote an article for STAT News that further explored the intersection between the internet and anxiety. 
  • We talked to Tim Wu about how app and social media designers are using anxiety to make sure you pay attention to their products.

Compulsion, science and tech, Sharon Begley, Internet

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