Charles Darwin, way back in 1835, was on Chatham Island, part of the Galápagos archipelago. "As I was walking along I met two large tortoises, ... one was eating a piece of cactus."
As he observed this tortoise, he noticed slight differences between it and others he had seen on other islands. These adaptations were well known amongst those that lived on the archipelago, however Darwin theorised these changes were an example of "adaptive radiation".
In other words, when a new positive stimulus appears in an environment, changes will occur because of seeking this new source.
It isn't "survival of the fittest". They found pleasure eating, which, of course, leads to survival.
And this is where Darwin was wrong. His emphasis on survival of the fittest is misleading. And flat-out wrong because it birthed the fitness movement.
Survival of the individual, nor the species, is not what is of concern. It is the fulfilling of an immediate purpose. We don't eat to survive; we eat because it gives us positive chemical feedback. The byproduct is that we get to live another day.
Amoebas follow positive chemical gradients to reach and then ingest nutrients. It is a virtuous cycle that continues up until a point. Psychologist Professor Daniel Nettle writes that "all sensate organisms have some kind of system for finding good things in the environment and going after them..."
What potentially makes us humans different from other animals is that we can harness our "system for finding good things" for things other than pure life/death dichotomies.
However, most of us go about our daily lives unaware of this ability. We go about our lives as if we don't have control, constantly buffering against the winds. Darwin's turtles evolved because the feedback loops for their pleasure seeking became different on each of the Galapagos Islands.
Observing modern humans seems to be as if we are living on an archipelago of different islands, each giving us different stimuli. Research by Global WebIndex shows that 59% of the world's population use social media. As of July this year, they estimate "[t]he average daily usage is 2 hours and 29 minutes."
That is two and a half hours of sustained positive feedback, all tailored by the algorithms.
For the tortoises of the Galapagos, this adaptation meant physical changes, such as a longer neck. This occurred over generations, so we won't be seeing babies being born with styluses for index fingers soon. But we will see radical changes in behaviours.
In fact, we already are. The simple idea of "alternate facts" directly results from us now living on these differing islands.
Our "systems for finding good things" have become sophisticated and complex. But at the end of the day, we seek connection, status and a purpose.
Does it matter how we achieve these things? I'd say yes, it does. For one thing, social media doesn't provide an outright purpose beyond connecting to others and gaining social validation. Games, on the other, do. There is a goal to be achieved.
I'd be interested to hear of your experiences and observations of social media use.