I’m offering up a challenge. Right now, you’re viewing this post via laptop, desktop, mobile device, or tablet. More than likely you are currently using a combination of any aforementioned piece of technology and have multiple tabs open – and if so, one of them is guaranteed to be some kind of social media site (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, FourSquare what have you). All I want you to think about is the last time you posted a status about your day, a photo from the weekend, shared a link, retweeted a celebrity, checked in somewhere, or snap chatted someone.
What kind of gratification do you get from posting all of that? When someone favorites it, likes it, or shares it, does it feel good to know that the people in your life seem to care about what’s going on with you? I’m certain the answer is yes. As human beings, wanting approval and connectivity with those we are surrounded by is a natural phenomenon, but research is saying that sometimes our natural desire for such approval can become a whole new craving.
Your Brain on Facebook
In an article written by Deborah Netburn in the LA Times, Harvard researchers have found through neurological testing that the same pleasure centers of our brain are activated when we share about our personal lives, receive a good paycheck, engage in sexual intimacy, even do hard drugs. The article itself has the term, “Brain Candy” in the title. No wonder critics say we culturally seem to be hooked on something so specious. In class, our professor gave us the example about self disclosure and privacy known as the Strangers On the Train phenomenon. The central idea is that we tend to feel more comfortable disclosing very intimate, personal information about ourselves to complete strangers in certain situations (such as a train ride, a flight, or a long bus ride), because we will more than likely never see that person again, which allows us to preserve anonymity. The same concept is applicable to how we conduct ourselves online. It’s easier to hide behind a keyboard when we share the most intimate details about our life with the world wide web.
Social Media and Our Ego
With the societal dominance of social media blurring the fine lines of interpersonal communication, it’s sometimes difficult to interpret messages online without seeing those non verbal cues. The same thing applies to how we present ourselves and what we put out there for everyone to see. Research is showing that there is a very intimate link between our egos and our activity of social media sites. One Huffington Post article showed the correlation between those who scored high on a test on narcissistic traits and the frequency of their Facebook activity (Chan, 2013). Parts of the psychology world says that the most affected people in this instance are those with low self esteem (even though the same research says that those with high self esteem deal with it as well, but in different ways). It seems very straight forward that those who have issues with self acceptance will have much more activity on social sites, but according to two Canadian social psychologists, Amanda L. Forest and Joanne V. Wood, it’s a little more backwards than that, concluding…
People with low self-esteem posted far more negative updates than those with high self-esteem. Forest says they described a host of unhappy sentiments, from seemingly minor things like having a terrible day or being frustrated with class schedules to more extreme feelings of rage and sorrow. (Neighond, 6).
San Diego State University psychology professor and author, Jean Twenge, says that this is the result of the culture at large, which promotes and accepts this kind of attention seeking behavior on social media sites.
I’m not saying it’s necessary to dissect all of your friend’s posts or your own, but I’m sure you would be able to pick up on certain trends that pertain to the matter. My final challenge is for you to take this as good food for thought when you scroll through your social media networks. It’s interesting when you take a step back and look through one of these lenses at your Facebook or Twitter feed.