John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Facebook and Dopamine

Facebook and the levels of dopamine hits.

It’s a good feeling when a friend request on Facebook gets “accepted.” Of course, we are adults and perhaps shouldn’t acknowledge the affirmation rush we feel, but it happens and is pleasing.

But what about the “delayed acceptance” of a friend request?

This gets complicated. The “dopamine factor” (we’ll call it) is reduced the more time that passes before we are notified of the big “accept.”

A week delay is probably only about a 20% reduction in the dopamine delivery. It’s possible this were really busy or is just now checking Facebook for new friend requests. But the chances are they saw the request from you 5 days ago and weren’t excited enough about it to immediately accept but knew they would eventually accept when “other” friend requests came in and they could kill 5 birds with one round of accepts, so to speak.

jyb_musingsA month delay, is concerning and delivers only about 40% of the dopamine an immediate accept produces. In this case, it’s likely the person decided not to accept you but then in the intervening weeks realized they needed to ask you for a favor or remembered you know someone important to them and don’t want you saying bad things about them for not accepting you on Facebook. Hence, the month delayed “accept.” The reason this is 40% and not lower is we know going in these people aren’t crazy about us and getting an accept in the first place is a bigger surprise, increasing the dopamine punch.

6 months or longer. It delivers about 20% of the maximum dopamine surge. Sure it’s offensive to know it took 6 months for someone to finally think of something redeeming enough about you to “accept” but the “relief factor” of knowing they eventually did come up with some reason to accept is worth a 20% hit. In fact, we are so relieved we don’t even need to know what the redeeming factor about us is. Just that there is one at all (for these individuals) is good enough.

1 year and 9 months? This is a tough one to explain. And is what got me thinking about this topic in the first place tonight. I haven’t figured it out yet. I’ll say a 25% dopamine burst. These are people you had written you off as undeserving of a friend accept. And about 639 days passed before they changed their mind…..and you have come back from the social dead to them, figuratively speaking. And coming back from death from anything is worth at least 25% of the maximum dopamine burst. I’m low-balling this one. ; )


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