From Addiction By Design, by Natasha Dow Schüll, pg 12:
A zone in which time, space, and social identity are suspended in the mechanical rhythm of a repeating process may seem an unpromising object for cultural analysis. Yet such a zone, I argue, can offer a window onto the kinds of contingencies and anxieties that riddle contemporary American life, and the kinds of technological encounters that individuals are likely to employ in the management of these contingencies and anxieties. Over the last two decades, social theorists have focused a great deal of attention on the leading role that technology has played in the production of broad- scale insecurities— from global warming and other catastrophic environmental disasters to financial crises and unstable job markets. 44 While some have acknowledged the subjective insecurities that percolate through so- called risk society as a result of these “manufactured uncertainties” (as the sociologist Ulrich Beck has termed them), fewer have examined how individuals use technology to manufacture “certainties” of the sort that Sharon discussed above. 45 Counterintuitively, machine gambling can serve as a “port of entry,” to borrow Lears’s term, into this less examined but no less significant territory. Although the activity explicitly entails risk— involving money, no less, a key measure of social and economic value— it contains that risk within a dependable framework, allowing gamblers to enact a mode of self- equilibration that has become typical of everyday technological interactions.
I really like this focus and I’m wondering whether compulsive reliance upon social media, in order to provide what Danny Miller describes as a “meta-best friend”, could be analysed in these terms. They certain provide a “a means through which individuals can manage their affective states and create a personal buffer zone against the uncertainties and worries of their world” as Schüll puts it.