The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 are the biggest internet users, with 99% of the people in that age group using the web, reaching 18 hours average weekly usage. Overwhelmingly, the amount of time Australian teens are on the internet is spent on social media which clearly indicates an addiction!
Social media apps like Tiktok, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest are intentionally conditioned to be addictive to its users. But how exactly are they addictive?
All types of social media apps and platforms use the same techniques to keep their users regularly engaged.
Firstly, the number of followers, friends, views, reactions, clicks, tags, hashtags, likes, and shares are very demanded by users for social validation. The more likes, reactions or shares a picture or a video gets, the better it is.
Social validation has become extremely crucial to some people that a person who does not get that validation are considered to be ‘unsuccessful’ or ‘boring’ or even ‘antisocial’. Hence, social validation is just one big technique.
Secondly, social media have built a fear of missing out (FOMO) in people. Users catch up with the trends and celebrities’ lifestyles on social media through their feed or for you page.
These are pages that everyone showcases their self and their lifestyle. These involve their clothing, the food they eat, the places they go to, the time they spend with their family and friends and much more.
Which brings me to my next point, that people feed their ego via their posts and profile. In a study published in the respected Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Harvard University researchers conducted a series of experiments to assess how much people liked talking about themselves.
The results showed that humans spend 40% of conversations talking about themselves. Another research led by Diana I Tamir and Jason P Mitchell at Harvard’s psychology department, found very similar results, that humans devote 30–40% of speech output solely to informing others of their own subjective experiences.
Interestingly, that number reaches up to 80% on social media posts, roughly double the amount on social media than in real life. Thus, this proves that users use social media platforms to represent themselves and gain their confidence through these presentations.
Push button notifications are another method. When we receive a notification it alerts us, leading our brain to secrete a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which plays a role in how we feel pleasure.
This creates a psychological graving, luring us onto our phone screens. Our demand for social validation, FOMO, self-ego, push button notifications all lead us to comparing ourselves with others and we start to be competitive with one another in a virtual world!
Hence, social media apps are built to create a sense of need and dependence for their platforms. The constant excitement, competition, and comparison that all social media apps create has an astronomical effect on people.
Social media impacts our physical, mental, and psychological health dramatically. Many of us have indeed become addicted to represent ourselves in the best image possible.