When you hear social media referred to as an “addiction", it may sound like more of a dramatic figure of speech than an actual neurological condition. But according to researchers at Harvard, social media addiction is really a thing - activating the same neural pathways as food, sex and gambling addictions!
So here's what happens: when someone “likes” our posts and selfies, our brains release a feel-good neurotransmitter called dopamine. Naturally, we are hardwired to want more of it, so these dopamine rushes become a reinforcer, encouraging us to post more selfies and crave more likes. This simple cycle can be more powerful than it seems - the mere thought of sharing activates the reward centers in our brains - even before we've done anything! For some, this becomes an obsession that is less about self-expression and more about attention and chemical highs. In fact - recent studies indicate that social media addiction can cause the same kind of brain changes as those seen in cocaine addicts!
Addiction can be very powerful and it changes the way we go about our daily activities. When we are constantly thinking about our object of desire and sub-consciously allow it to influence our judgement, we become true addicts. Many of us have already experienced this: we’ll do things motivated by how they’ll appear on Facebook rather than our actual desire to do them. Or worse – we are doing the things we want to do...but we’re too busy trying to show everyone else by capturing selfies for Instagram to be living in the moment and enjoying it for ourselves!
Like any other addiction, our addiction to social sharing can rob us of a fulfilling...and our true identity.
Sounds a little scary, right? So should we all just delete our social media accounts in fear of losing ourselves and falling prey to this cycle of addiction? Not necessarily. That probably isn't realistic, and there might be an even better solution. Stay tuned for our thoughts on the solution next week.