Before I begin let me get one thing clear. Social media by all means is something that I personally love. I am a social media-holic.” If you are between the ages of 14 and 30 you are probably in the same boat as I am. It is by definition ‘social’ and the interaction you get on any platform is something that has become more than a casual, every now and then thing. It’s an addiction. The general premise of posting and sharing has become a global epidemic. It’s intrusive networking that you just can’t get enough of. You get the picture.
Currently, there is an estimated 1.8 billion people who use a form of social media to connect with the world. That is, in essence, a whopping 2.25 times more than the ‘developed nations’ total population (approx. 800 million). Crazy right?
Everyone probably realizes that there is a myriad of reasons why ‘social media’ is popular. Each to their own has different reasons why they use it and some may even reap the rewards in using it. Technological advancements have led us to where we are and there is no slowing down to this movement on the digital environment. Let’s face it, going digital means global. The reach of audience it can achieve has a chance to be astronomical compared to any other media vehicle. Simply put, it’s AMAZING!
But social media as a whole have doubled as something more than an entertainment platform. It has scientifically been acknowledged for its ability to affect the human brain. I’m not saying that it’s manipulative or mind-altering (I;m sure it can be but, nonetheless), but more so the fact that it can affect the levels of ‘pleasure’ one can achieve. For whatever platform you use (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest etc.) social media is a place where over sharing is a natural occurrence which is acceptable and tolerated. People overindulge on that ‘blue button’ whenever they see, hear or come up with anything. Much like nomophobia (the fear of being out of mobile phone contact – no mobile phone phobia), the reasons for such phobia (or in this case addiction) is heavily weighted on the brain secreting a natural ‘high’. A high which is created by the increase in dopamine, a pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter.
According to Dr. David Greenfield, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Dopamine simply put is “the brain’s reward center, meaning that it motivates people to do things they think they will be rewarded for doing.” So dopamine is something that is directly associated with your most sinful and secret cravings. I mean clearly you don’t just get motivated for something without an endgame or some kind of reward. Dopamine is love, lust, addiction, sex and much more. In context, it is the ‘7 deadly sins’. All the good stuff, the fun stuff.
But as humans we thrive for social acceptance. The thought of ‘belonging’, the need for ‘attention’ and being ‘loved’. We want it. We need it. It’s just how we are. It plays a humongous role when it comes to social media. The thought process behind continual posting or sharing is often misguided, but rewarding. ‘Likes’, ‘retweets’ or even when the notification box lights up the human brain responds positively to it, therefore creating that release of dopamine. The common phrase, “Sharing is caring” can be thought as selfishness. Something with definite ulterior motives attached to it, and it reflects the underlying reason of ‘why’ people love social media. People in most cases of addiction can’t shake the habit due to the ‘reward’ they reap from whatever they may be using. Much like heroin junkies, if we don’t get our proper fix of dopamine, withdrawal is inevitable.
Social media just happened to become a great source for that high. A ‘viral high’, a place to get that fix.