When you have good news what’s the first thing you do? Call your parents? Jump up and down? I bet in your top five thoughts of how to react you’re already drafting up the glorious Facebook post that will be the envy of all your friends. It will rake in the likes.
You’ve got a new job? Graduated? Started a new relationship? Your pet did a cute little stretch?
Why is virtual attention so addictive? Is it because you can watch the likes roll in and physically count how many people ‘like’ your news? Why do would rather have a like than a congratulatory hug? Fuck knows, but it’s kind of sad.
Science has proven that there is actually a reason behind this need that we all have – social media feels good. Anything that feels good we repeat. And repeat. It’s been described by Cosmopolitan as a physiological high. Facebook is the drug that we’re all hooked on and not judged for so why would we ever stop?
Emma Kenny, a psychologist, told Cosmo that: “It’s a reward cycle, you get a squirt of dopamine every time you get a like or a positive response on social media,”. Doesn’t sound so great when you put it like that…
What about those posts that aren’t showing off?..
People have also begun to take to the internet to share not just the good but the bad, sad and ugly. Studies have also found that people are just as likely to share difficult sides of their lives aswell as the highlights – as these also open the threshold to a flood of notifications. “Your pet died? But I didn’t see it on Facebook…” (yes this has been an actual sentence before).
Now, this isn’t saying that all those sharing their losses and bad experiences online are attention seeking narcissists – otherwise I’d have to include myself in that. The psychologist who spoke to Cosmo also said:
So is this all really that worrying? The answer to that is a big fat YES!
Most of us have been guilty of deleting posts or photos because they didn’t receive what we deemed ‘enough attention’ online. Who has scrolled and seen a “whoops, Facebook deleted this earlier” post? Noone ever buys that little line.
Back in the day when Instagram would list names until your photos reached 11 likes times were really tough – the pressure was on. It’s not whether you like your photo but how your followers react to it.
Are we all destined to become narcissistic social media ‘psychos’?
Not if you can separate the virtual world from the real world and monitor your behavior. Don’t take likes and comments as fact! When people comment on your posts they are putting in as much effort as you do with others – most of the time this isn’t very much. So don’t take anything too personally. You like the photo? Load it – and not just at ‘peak times’.
Social media is the modern day. If you’re not on it are you even relevant? How do you plan, like, anything?
There are many benefits and opportunities from sharing online – relationships can help be maintained long distance and isolated people can socialise comfortably and quickly.
But, and this is a big old but, social media has its down sides like all great things. Chocolate has carbs and social media has mental health. Our mental health.
A recent report suggests that there’s a risk it can actually increase loneliness in certain circumstances; more than two hours of social media use a day, the study found, doubled the chances of a person experiencing social isolation rather than reducing it.
“With young women, the pursuit of perfection is becoming a major problem,” says Kenny. “When you’re reliant on social media, it can increase insecurity issues and create a sense of paranoia. It can increase depression and enable us to feel like other people’s lives are so much better than ours.
We’ve all become social media savvy – psychologically training ourselves every day to display our ‘perfect lives’ and post at the best possible times ready to reap the return of countless ‘likes’. How much is the right amount of ‘likes’? Should we not be focusing on liking ourselves?
Will YOU now change your social media habits?