You’ve heard that social media is screwing with your brain. Maybe you even read about it on social media. (So meta; so messed up.) The neurochemical culprit, dopamine, spikes when you like and get liked, share and are shared. You’ve probably also heard scientists compare the affliction to drug or alcohol addiction. That’s fair. The same part of the brain lights up.
Scroll, scroll, scroll. It’s a phenomenon now so pervasive that it’s got a name: zombie scrolling syndrome. (The security company McAfee coined the phrase in 2016.) We are the undead of lore, shambling through the world, moaning and groaning with half-closed eyes. I’d like to be able to tell you this is a fantastical bit of exaggeration, that we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. I can do no such thing.
The analogy, it turns out, has legs. Consider parasites. An astonishing number of them exist in nature, from worms to wasps, and some have the power of mind control. Or, said another way, zombification. And these fiends are doing it in—gulp—ways that bring to mind social media.