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Helen Popkin
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msnbc.com
updated 6/29/2010 4:57:39 PM ET 2010-06-29T20:57:39

"I hate Facebook!" How many times have you said that … on Facebook?

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Lots, no doubt. Well, at least once, probably. Failing that, surely at least one of your close personal Facebook friends shared that sentiment. It's not hard to find reasons, no matter how ill-aimed those reasons may be. When the omnipotent social network isn’t getting us "Facebook fired" for something we shouldn’t have posted online, it’s sucking up our lives as we toil on time-wasters like raising virtual crops. And now it’s destroying our families! You read the news .

According to a recent survey of American Academy of Matrimonial  Lawyers, "Facebook holds the distinction of being the unrivaled leader for online divorce evidence with 66 percent citing it as the primary source.” And as the Associated Press reminded us in its report, "A DIY divorce site in the United Kingdom, Divorce-Online, reported the word 'Facebook' appeared late last year in about one in five of the petitions it was handling."

Except, no. As fun and/or cathartic as it is to blame our human failings on Facebook or to bond with each other on Facebook petition pages demanding that the business conform to our will, it's still just a tool. Social networks don't destroy jobs and families, people do. Or they don't. It's your free will.

Agreed, Facebook certainly makes it easier to do all of the above. It's like having a chocolate buffet in your home as you attempt to not binge on chocolate … at least, if chocolate is your thing. Still, we know better.

We are six years into "Facebook," now, and before that there was … what was it? "MySpace," or whatever. Combine that with the 24/7 news cycle, and the Internet in general. If we've never visited online humiliation logs such as Lamebook and Failbook, certainly everyone with regular access to a social network has at least read half a dozen stories about indelicate status alerts or uploaded photos that ended employment, destroyed relationships and/or provided evidence for the prosecution.

So why do we do it? It's all about brain chemistry. We don't have to get into a long-winded debate on whether the Internet is making us more stupid or smarter to understand the basics of brain chemistry. Anticipating rewards dumps happy dopamine chemicals in our brains, the theory goes. If we expect the report of someone posting on our Facebook page, our brain is going to get happy just anticipating the reward … whether we get the reward or not.

Even if we don't get that consciously, our brains do. So our brains push us to do the behavior that gets us the happy brain dump … like check our Facebook profiles when we should be doing work. Or check our text messages when we should be driving. Or binge on chocolate when Type 2 diabetes runs in our family.

Once you understand that, it's not so easy to hate Facebook, and maybe you'll even be a little self conscious about being an adult who checks your Facebook profile compulsively and/or post things we really shouldn't. Or not. It's your choice.

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