56.8% of the world population is on social media in 2021. At its core, social media is a powerful tool that can and is changing the world. Humans are social creatures with an innate need to stay connected with others to thrive. In today's world, we rely on social media to stay connected.
About 4million people spend a collective hundred billion hours a day on social media platforms.
Social media platforms are built to snap our attention to keep us engaged online around the clock. Do you recall the Orkut days? It felt like the online slam book. Then Facebook came that got great traction primarily because people were able to search for their friends whom they met last some decades ago! Whatsapp made the "SMS packs" irrelevant.
The recent concept of "reels" i.e short videos got very good traction. The concept of "short videos" started with social media platforms like Tik Tok, and finally got adopted by Instagram, and even Youtube.
Have you ever wondered why they are free?
Because you are the product!
All your activities are tracked, and your behavior is converted into data. Some of the data like DAU (Daily active users), User retention, activity time are sorted using AI. This is done to map your persona, and based on your persona, likings, and online behavior, products will be targeted for the Ads!
Social media knows you better than you know yourself!
In the age of social media, data is the new oil.
Now let's understand why and how social media is addictive:
Social media creates psychological carvings similar to gambling or drugs.
The human mind is naturally inclined towards gossips, and getting information about what is in trend. This tendency comes from the way homo sapiens have evolved as a community, constantly seeking new information about a threat, a new fertile land, a probable mating partner and so on. The fear of not getting being updated as others are, leads to a psychological fear called Fear of Missing out.
Further, Online engaging of liking, commenting, and sharing leads to the release of dopamine (the feel-good neurotransmitter) in response to the validation you receive from one’s social media friends. This in turn makes you crave more attention and further engagement, online. There is this constant FOMO (fear of missing out) pushing you to engage in more activities online and this ultimately becomes a vicious circle where you join/ remain active on social media so that you don’t miss out on things and the moment you join it, you go tend to further criticize yourself or question your self-worth because of the glamorous life portrayed online.
Often, it is also seen as a substitute for the thriving social life that one craves in real life. However, it needs to be understood that having more friends on social media doesn't necessarily mean having a better social life. A 2021 study at Stockholm University found that humans can maintain about 150 stable social relationships. This is called the Dunbar’s number. Maintaining relations requires in-person contact to activate hormones reducing stress, making you feel healthier and happier which isn’t possible through social media.
Likes, views, comments, followers have become markers in our society for being a person who is liked or even a person who leads an interesting life. Living an influential lifestyle is the goal. Buying lighting rings editing and re-editing pictures to show average lives. The influencer culture is suffocating wherein the way life is advocated, beauty goals are established is nothing but a mirage. A study in 2012, found that most of the 10-12-year-olds instead of choosing any particular career path just want to be famous. Being an Influencer is the new path to getting that fame.
The need to pretend that you are famous till you find real followers have created a new market. Everything is for sale at the moment you can buy yourself followers, likes, views even comments. Bots are available for anything. Big tech companies know about these illegal acts but they have no incentive to get rid of bots. Return on the investment is so large that no one wants to make changes. Social media platforms have created one formula on how to use it those likes, comments, views, and followers are your identity.
A predominant reason why people want to be famous is to have a celebrity-like a lifestyle and perceived suitability. People have an intrinsic need to be valued and respected. Fame brings with it an illusion of escaping anxiety about social inclusion.
A study by the University of Pennsylvania shows that using social media platforms makes you feel lonelier and damages your wellbeing. Ironically the technology made to make you feel connected to others by hours and hours of online engaging makes you feel isolated and lonely. Social media works like any other addiction leaving you psychologically craving for more and more. By reviewing posts and stories people look for validation serving as a replacement for meaningful connection. A 2018 British study associated social media usage to disrupted sleep leading to depression, anxiety, memory loss, and headaches. Social media correlated with suicidal thoughts. The trend of short videos a.k.a reels is reducing the concentration timespan.
Today teens are at a higher risk of facing mental health issues with constant exposure to social media. Social media increases the risk of harmful interaction. It exposes teens to filtered images at a crucial time when their bodies are changing. Such platforms facilitate cyberbullying and create unhealthy self-centeredness. The mindless scrolling through feeds or home page even though you know the images you are looking at are all manipulated and surely unreal. Still, you feel insecure about your looks, life, or even job. Social media has made people jealous over illusions. Some are envious of things that don't even exist. It is training us to compare our lives rather than appreciating what we have. It makes people prioritize looks and physical attractiveness above all. Believing what others define as “fun” and interesting life. Your youth is called your golden years where you make mistakes, learn, lose, fall and dust everything off to begin again. Don’t let someone else’s life be a blueprint for yours.
Social media isn’t all bad. It has done wonders by giving voices to the voiceless. Making people a part of the conversation, providing a platform where the world can come together to support one another. Like during #metoo and black lives matter movement saw people coming together join hands and fight injustice. Creating a community where strangers help each other. Social media isn't all bad or good, view it is more like a grey area. Your usage defines what you make of it monitor and limit its use, don't get caught up in the vicious cycle of posting, liking, and stressing overviews.
Posting less, doing more. Comparing less, reflecting more. Discussing less, accomplishing more.