The Psychology Behind Our Infatuation With Social Media

Using social media affects how people view themselves and their mood. Long-term, research shows that the frequent use of social media is likely to lower self-esteem and can fuel depression.

Dr. Erin Vogel, who works in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, studies social media and well-being.

“I started by studying social comparison on social media and different forms of social influence,” Vogel said. “So a lot of my research is based on this idea that people present selectively positive versions of themselves in social media — they’re talking more about the better aspect of their lives and making themselves seem like they’re having this great life, which can then lead other people to feel worse about themselves as a result.”

Words like “addiction” are thrown around quite frequently when talking about cellular devices, or social media — but this may not be so far-fetched. Studies show that internet users spend an average of 135 minutes per day on social media. So what makes social media so appealing to young consumers?

Dopamine is a chemical in the brain known as one of the “happy chemicals.” Responsible for creating feelings of pleasure and desire. Feeling a connection to other humans, by doing things like tweeting, release dopamine into the brain.

Many social media platforms use the same methods as gambling corporations to create psychological dependencies in the lives of their users. The “pull-to-refresh” feature is oddly similar to the act of pulling a lever on a slot machine. Knowing the possibility of a reward awaits us on the other side, this act can be either gratifying or disappointing, yet it keeps us coming back for more.

Ego, social comparison, fear of missing out, and social validation are also influencers of the social media world.

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Journalism LU ‘21

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