Today, social media offer countless benefits on a personal and professional level. However, these platforms also have a dark side, an addictive aspect that we must know how to overcome.
Globally, there are about 7.8 billion inhabitants and, according to the latest report on digital trends conducted by the agency We Are Social, more than 53% are social media users. Most of these “connected” individuals have a fairly healthy relationship with these platforms. However, a small proportion is addicted to the “digital platforms”. The Addiction Center reports that currently, between 5 and 10% of Americans meet the criteria for social media addiction. Individuals who suffer this disorder display undue concern for these digital tools, uncontrollable urges to use or log on to them, and over-commitment to them that interferes with other important areas of their lives.
How social media affect the brain
Although we are currently facing some very serious problems such as the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic or climate change, the truth is, in most areas of the world, things are much calmer nowadays than they were in previous centuries. However, our brain, or at least part of it, continues to be governed by basic survival systems. As Dr. David Perlmutter and Dr. Austin Perlmutter explain in their book “Clean Up Your Brain”, the same brain mechanisms that have allowed us to survive –such as the drive to feed ourselves in order to have food available in anticipation of famine, or the need for social acceptance, which ensured us the protection of the tribe– are now the gateway to commercial exploitation and, also, to this almost addictive need for social media. From a physiological perspective, what happens is that the amygdala, an emotional center of the brain triggered by reward, overrides more complex cognitive processes that are handled by the more evolved part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, attributed with functions such as making plans, expressing empathy or making thoughtful decisions. In other words, the “basic” part of the brain has taken over while the “complex” part is relegated to the background. This amygdala action is what makes us seek immediate responses on social media: we need reward/gratification and we want it now.
Likes and happiness
According to a recent Harvard University study, social media activates the same areas of the brain as addictive substances do. When a person experiences something rewarding or is on a stimulating substance, dopamine production (also known as the pleasure or happiness hormone) increases in the brain. Receiving a notification for a “like”, a comment, etc., provides an instant burst of dopamine, awakening the need to seek more.
An additional contributor to social media addiction is the fact that the brain’s reward center (the amygdala) is more stimulated when people talk about themselves. Within real life, it is estimated that they do so 30-40% of the time. In social media, however, people talk about themselves 80% of the time.
At SMOS we are fully aware of the addictive component of social media and that is why we strongly advise to make a responsible use of them. In addition, we know that the social management of corporate platforms is complex and requires a lot of dedication. We therefore recommend entrusting their management to experts. There are currently many companies out there specialized in social media, however, SMOS is the only one that masters organic growth on these platforms.