Your Brain On Drama: What Social Media Means For Your Personal Growth
The field of neuroscience has a decent grasp on many of the ways our brain develops, processes stimuli and reacts to the world around us. But with each passing day, that world becomes noisier, more cluttered and chaotic. The fast paced, 24-hour news cycles, never-ending streams of competing ideas, and pings of devices are surely taking their toll. But the research is limited and in its infancy.
Despite this, we are well aware that understanding and manipulating human behavior has been a motivation of recent events targeting political elections through social media. So, what is it that these entities seem to know about the human brain that others dont? The answer may be, not much. But what they do know and easily exploit is how strong the reaction to conflict and drama can be. And while individuals are supposed to learn emotional regulation, impulse control, and improved decision-making as they age, we may not be learning these skills as teenagers anymore and the social repercussions are everywhere.
Accordingly, social media engagements appear to get uglier as we become more dramatic. But what can we do to stop the vicious cycle of conflict and drama? First, is having a better appreciation for how our brains processes information received. And second, is actively working to be a better communicator given the pitfalls of todays society. Here are some of the keys to understanding how we got here, and how to get your personal growth on track:
Here’s What Happens To Your Brain When You Quit Social Media
The presence of social media in our day-to-day lives can feel like both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it fosters a sense of connection, enhances communication, and provides a platform for creatives, educators, and small business owners alike. Yet on the other hand, it can prompt feelings of insecurity, political divisiveness, and enable online bullying .
According to Statista, social media use in the United States has grown exponentially over the years. Compared to a mere 10% of the population reporting social media usage in 2008, a whopping 82% of the population now reports having at least one social networking profile as of 2021.
Most concerns over social media usage pertain to its effects on our mental health. A 2013 study found that the more time young people spent scrolling through Facebook, the more likely they were to report feelings of diminished “moment-to-moment happiness” . Science demonstrates that some of these mental health concerns may be linked to structural changes that take place in the brain due to social media use . So on the flip side, what happens to our brain when we quit social media and how does doing so influence our mental health?
It Might Make You Spend More Money
New research suggests that heavy social media use might be correlated to lower self-control, which marketing experts believe could lead to higher spending. Ultimately, the way you counteract this is by raising your self-awareness, Columbia University Professor Keith Wilcox told TODAY. Its not about dont spend time on Facebook, but just be aware of what it might be doing to you. Learn exactly what can happen when you quit social media all together.
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How Can The Platforms Change
Sperling acknowledges social platforms have positive aspects, such as their ability to allow people to stay in touch with family and friends around the world. She realizes the potential pitfalls of completely banning teens from sites that have become a part of life for their generationnot just as a way for them to stay on top of recent parties and conversations but often as an expected source of announcements and news. Still, she says, the platforms have opened a Pandoras box as they continue to evolve more quickly than we can research their impact.
I think we need to take a step back and look at the role technology is playing in our society as a whole, in terms of people needing instant gratification, staying home and not interacting in the community by going to local stores or to the movie theater, she says. Even dating apps can decrease motivation for single adults to approach others in the community if they think they just can connect with them on an app first.
In addition to limiting likes, as Instagram has done, Sperling suggests social platforms consider decreasing mass sharing altogether. They might function more as messaging services by highlighting one-on-one communications. Regardless of how likely social media giants are to change their ways, though, individuals can take control of their own behavior.
Social Cognitive Responses To The Online Social World
Given the evidence above, an appropriate metaphor for the relationship between online and realworld sociality could be a new playing field for the same game. Even beyond the fundamental structure, emerging research suggests that neurocognitive responses to online social occurrences are similar to those of reallife interactions. For instance, being rejected online has been shown to increase activity in brain regions strongly linked with social cognition and realworld rejection in both adults and children105, 106, 107. However, within the same old game of human sociality, online social media is bending some of the rules potentially at the expense of users17. For instance, whereas realworld acceptance and rejection is often ambiguous and open to selfinterpretation, social media platforms directly quantify our social success , by providing clear metrics in the form of friends, followers, and likes 107. Given the addictive nature of this immediate, selfdefining feedback, social media companies may even capitalize upon this to maximally engage users17. However, growing evidence indicates that relying on online feedback for selfesteem can have adverse effects on young people, particularly those with low socialemotional wellbeing, due to high rates of cyberbullying108, increased anxiety and depression109, 110, and increased perceptions of social isolation and exclusion among those who feel rejected online111.
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When Social Media Habits Turn To Social Media Addictions
Social media dependency has received more and more consideration in the last five years. The boom of social networking applications has caused many researchers to explore not only why people post the content they choose to share, but also the addictive tendencies in some users.
Specifically, the article Social Networking Sites and Addiction pinpointed some reasons people become addicted to social networking sites . These reasons include lower self-esteem and a general anxiety about being excluded.
The authors were quick to make the distinction between social networking and social media, though, since social networking is a way of being while individuals can become addicted to using social networking sites. They extend social media addiction to connect more clearly to smartphone addiction, and that levels of addiction may depend of sociodemographic information. Further, the researchers conclude that the fear of missing out may be part of SNS addiction. These are all significant features of how people are more and more inclined to post on or consume social media because of an underlying addictive behavior problem.
Though this chapter does a good job of providing impressive prospective frameworks for screening and treatment responses, a lot more work needs to be done to confront the problem directly. In order to unpack the psychology of social media more comprehensively, a closer look into preventative measures needs to be taken.
Social Pressures To Fit Into Social Media Groups
A huge incentive to use social media stems from the acceptance users can receive from various groups. As with practically all aspects of social media, this group-focused direction of social media has benefits and drawbacks.
One major benefit for social media users is they can reach out to and connect with groups of people with similar interests across the planet. People can find more information about niche hobbies, popular pastimes, and general interests. This ability to belong to different groups is excellent for people coming from smaller or distant communities, and the psychological advantages for those individuals are immense.
According to Art Markman of Psychology Today, belonging to a group can dramatically improve a persons drive to complete tasks. Specifically, he stated that even a simple relationship between people based on arbitrary reasons, like sharing a birthday or being randomly assigned to a group, is enough to increase feelings of warmth and motivation. Social media, thus, offers opportunities for people to form groups for both general and specific interests, which can help improve their overall productivity.
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What Social Media Does To Your Brain According To Neuroscience
Neuroscientist Shannon Odell is back, and this time shes inside your freaking computer. Based on the three main platforms Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter Odell analyzed all the way social media is affecting our brains.
You know Facebook its the website from that Jesse Eisenberg movie. As it turns out, a lot of people use it. There are currently 2.2 billion users on Facebook, which is roughly seven times the population of the United States. Its how most people find out their enemies from high school are pregnant.
The real reason most people love Facebook, however, is the coveted like feature. The like is thought to be directly connected with the social reward pathway in the brain. This isnt a coincidence. Facebook researchers have figured out the perfect color, placement, and size of the like button to maximize the impact on your brain. If this sounds a little manipulative, well, it is. But that doesnt necessarily mean you need to delete your Facebook account. While users do show activation of the amygdala and the striatum when theyre using Facebook two areas of the brain associated with addiction there wasnt enough significant activation in lower prefrontal areas of the brain, which are often associated with substance addictions. So you can rest easy knowing your Facebook usage is not as bad as your cocaine addiction.
Side Effects Of Social Media On The Brain
Spending too much time on social media isnt just a bad habit it can have real consequences. Science shows that we are basically carrying around little dopamine stimulators in our pockets, so its not surprising that were constantly distracted by our phones. A TED video explains that social media makes us bad at multitasking and causes phantom vibration syndrome, which is when you feel like your phone is buzzing even though its not.
Just like a gambling or substance addiction, social media addiction involves broken reward pathways in our brains. Social media provides immediate rewards in the form of attention from your network for minimal effort through a quick thumb tap. Therefore, the brain rewires itself, making you desire likes, retweets, emoji applause and so on. According to TED, five to 10 percent of internet users are psychologically addicted and cant control how much time they spend online. Brain scans of social media addicts are similar to those of drug-dependent brains: There is a clear change in the regions of the brain that control emotions, attention and decision making.
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How Does A Supernormal Stimulus Interact With Normal Cognition
Unfortunately, the rapid methods of acquisition and constant availability of information afforded by the Internet may not necessarily lead to better use of information gained. For instance, an experimental study47 found that individuals instructed to search for specific information online completed the information gathering task faster than those using printed encyclopedias, but were subsequently less able to recall the information accurately.
During Internet and encyclopedia information gathering tasks, functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to examine activation in the ventral and dorsal streams. These regions are referred to as the what and where streams, respectively, due to their indicated roles in storing either the specific content or external location of incoming information47. Although there was no difference in activation of the dorsal stream, results showed that the poorer recall of Internetsought information compared to encyclopediabased learning was associated with reduced activation of the ventral stream during online information gathering. These findings further support the possibility, initially raised by Sparrow et al40, that online information gathering, while faster, may fail to sufficiently recruit brain regions for storing information on a longterm basis.
It Alters Your Appetite
According to Womens Health, food porn photos can activate the brains reward center and compel viewers to overeat one study suggests that even looking at food images after a meal can trigger hunger. Posting a pic of your avocado-toast brunch might not seem terrible, but these are the photos you should never, ever post to any social media account.
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Physiology: Brain Chemistry Leaves Us Craving More Likes
Neuroscientists are studying the effects of social media on the brain and finding that positive interactions trigger the same kind of chemical reaction that is caused by gambling and recreational drugs.
According to an article by Harvard University researcher Trevor Haynes, when you get a social media notification, your brain sends a chemical messenger called dopamine along a reward pathway, which makes you feel good. Dopamine is associated with food, exercise, love, sex, gambling, drugs and now, social media. Variable reward schedules up the ante psychologist B.F. Skinner first described this in the 1930s. When rewards are delivered randomly , and checking for the reward is easy, the dopamine-triggering behavior becomes a habit.
Social Rewards And The Brain
Between the ages of 10 and 12, changes in the brain make social rewardscompliments on a new hairstyle, laughter from a classmatestart to feel a lot more satisfying. Specifically, receptors for the happy hormones oxytocin and dopamine multiply in a part of the brain called the ventral striatum, making preteens extra sensitive to attention and admiration from others.
We know that social media activity is closely tied to the ventral striatum, said Mitch Prinstein, APAs chief science officer. This region gets a dopamine and oxytocin rush whenever we experience social rewards.
Right next door to the ventral striatum lies the ventral pallidum, a region of the brain key for motivating action. These structures, which lie beneath the more recently evolved cortex, are older parts of the brain that drive instinctual behaviors.
In adulthood, social media use is also linked to activation in the brains reward centers, but two key differences may lessen harm, Prinstein said. First, adults tend to have a fixed sense of self that relies less on feedback from peers. Second, adults have a more mature prefrontal cortex, an area that can help regulate emotional responses to social rewards.
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How Does The Online Environment Affect Our Fundamental Social Structures
To investigate the neuroimaging correlates of offline and online networks, the seminal study by Kanai et al74 collected realworld social network size, online sociality and magnetic resonance imaging scans from 125 participants. Results showed that both realworld social network size and number of Facebook friends were significantly associated with amygdala volume. As this has previously been established as a key brain region for social cognition and social network size76, these results present a strong case for the overlap between online and offline sociality in the human brain.
However, those authors also found that the grey matter volume of other brain regions were predicted by the numbers of participants Facebook friends, but held no relationship to their realworld social networks. This suggests that certain unique aspects of social media implicate aspects of the brain that are not central in realworld social settings. For instance, the tendency for online networks to encourage us towards holding many weak social connections, involving thousands of facetoname pairs, could require high associative memory capacities, which is not typically required in realworld networks 74. As associative memory formation for nameface pairs involves the right entorhinal cortex77, 78, this could explain the exclusive relationship that this region holds with online social network size74.
Quitting Social Media May Boost Sleep And Academic Performance
For a brain to function as it should, it requires adequate sleep. A 2018 study discovered that social media engagement caused users to get fewer hours of sleep per night and that they were more prone to sleep interruptions . Lack of sleep can impact cognitive function during the daytime in numerous ways, including decreases in academic performance.
Conversely, a 2019 study found that quitting social media can have the opposite effect on our grades. The research was conducted on college students studying subjects related to science or business. On average, these students spent two hours per day using Facebook. It turned out that students who spent 3 hours a day on Facebook just one hour more above average demonstrated a 10% decrease in exam marks. Researchers determined that students with below-average grades could benefit from quitting social media due to the positive effects it offers such as increasing focus and freeing up study time.
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It May Make You Lose Sleep
Melatonin is the hormone in your body that regulates sleep. High levels of melatonin can help you sleep while low levels can keep you awake. While any kind of light can reduce how much melatonin your body makes, blue lightwhich is emitted from the screen of your smartphonelessens your melatonin levels even more. Social media scrolling, especially at night, can disrupt your circadian rhythms. That said, not all types of social media use causes problems. Here are some social media habits that you shouldnt feel bad about.
It Activates Our Reward Center
Peer pressure has existed long before social media. We want to participate in actives that will result in us being accepted and well liked. Actively using social media without a doubt elevates this and cause a wide-spread reaction across our brains reward center. At the University of California Los Angles Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, researches used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to see exactly how teenagers brains were lit up when experiencing an app that resembled Instagram, where their photos received likes. The same brain circuits that are activated by eating chocolate and winning money are activated when teenagers see large numbers of likes on their own photos,says the study. The part of the brain that showed the most activity is called the striatum called the nucleus accumbens.
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