Psychology Behind Social Media

Mikayla Young, Staff Writer

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It’s almost second nature. The moment something major happens, phones are whipped out and all the cameras flash. Instantaneously, pictures are uploaded to the internet via social media. But why? Why do we feel the need to keep everybody updated on our lives?

“I feel like it’s important to keep my family updated,” said senior Haley Wright when asked why she posts on Facebook, “It’s how I connect with my family. Twitter and Instagram are more for fun.”

Seventy-five percent of students responded similarly to Wright’s statement, saying they post to keep family updated on their life.

According to our study, however, the majority of Braves post not only to show Grandma their homecoming pictures, but to give others a sense of their life; what they like to do in their spare time, opinions, and friends.

There’s more to the cycle of posting and liking than one would realize. In fact, you can tell mom and dad that there is a scientific reason why you keep checking your Instagram, twitter, and tumblr. The culprit for this behavior is the brain chemical dopamine.

Dopamine is commonly confused with the “liking” systems of the brain, when it is actually a part of the “wanting” systems. The two are complementary; the wanting propels you into action and the liking gives you a brief sense of satisfaction, which kicks off the  dopamine cycle.

With social media, the feeling of instant gratification is at your fingertips. The second you hear the ping of a message, you are rewarded with two major dopamine boosts that trigger your liking and wanting centers, and the cycle restarts.

We all love our social media, but it can easily get out of control. Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist Barbara Lucas says she has seen about 12 to 15 cases of strictly social media addiction, even dealing with children as young as five or six.

“I think that social media is misused often as a distraction,” she said, “especially if people are going through a hard time in their life, they post what they want their life to be like as opposed to what it is. It distracts from the hard issues.”

Social media can also be a gateway for other present addictions or even narcissistic personalities without some form of moderation.

“I think because on the inside everyone feels [at least] a little insecure about themselves, really alone or really empty,” said Lucas. “Having lots of followers gives a false sense of acceptance and belonging.”

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Psychology Behind Social Media