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The Psychology of Social Media by Sara Ijaz


In today’s fast-paced world, social media has emerged as a dominant force, fundamentally transforming communication and interaction. One of the key benefits of social media lies in its ability to foster global connectivity.


However, amidst the allure of social media’s benefits, significant challenges exist that warrant attention. As a pervasive force in modern society, social media alters how we communicate and profoundly impacts our thoughts, feelings and relationships.


The psychology of social media refers to studying how social networking platforms impact individuals’ behaviour, emotions and mental well-being. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat have become integral parts of modern society, shaping the way people communicate, share information, and perceive themselves and others. While these platforms offer various benefits, they also come with prevalent risks. The average teenager spends more than seven hours online every day for entertainment. While spending more time online is a reality of modern life, it changes the way adolescents interact with one another, often in negative ways.

 

The role of social media in cyberbullying

One significant aspect to consider is how social media increases the risk of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying involves using technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target or bully someone, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature. The anonymity and accessibility provided by social media platforms make it easier for individuals to engage in cyberbullying behaviour. Social media allows for the rapid spread of harmful messages or images, amplifying the impact of cyberbullying on victims. Lack of face-to-face interaction on social media can lead to a decrease in empathy, making it easier for individuals to hurt others online. Through social media, individuals can easily hide behind the screen and engage in negative behaviours without facing immediate consequences.  


On social media, individuals can hide behind fake accounts or profiles, making it easier for them to engage in cyberbullying without facing the consequences. This anonymity emboldens cyberbullies to target their victims without fear of being identified.


Social media platforms are accessible around the clock, allowing cyberbullying to occur at any time of the day. This constant connectivity makes it challenging for victims to escape or seek refuge from online harassment. Victims of cyberbullying may experience emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and, in severe cases, even contemplate self-harm or suicide.


Posts on social media can quickly reach a broad audience, amplifying the impact of cyberbullying. Hurtful comments or humiliating content can go viral within minutes, causing immense emotional distress to the victim.


Many young people use social media unsupervised, making them more vulnerable to cyberbullying. Without proper guidance, they may not know how to handle or report cyberbullying incidents effectively.

 

The influence of social media on social comparison

Social media often presents idealised versions of people´s lives, leading to unrealistic comparisons and feelings of inadequacy among users. Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter provide ample opportunities for users to compare themselves to their peers in various aspects such as appearance, lifestyle, achievements, and relationships. This highlight effect can contribute to the pervasive fear of missing out (FOMO) and exacerbate mental health issues like anxiety and depression.


One way social media influences social comparison is through curated content. Users often post carefully selected photos and updates that portray their lives in a positive light, creating an idealised version of reality. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem in individuals who compare themselves to these unrealistic standards.


Moreover, the presence of likes, comments, and followers on social media further fuels social comparison. High engagement on posts is often equated with popularity and approval, leading individuals to seek validation through their online presence. This constant need for validation can create a cycle of seeking external affirmation and basing self-worth on digital metrics.

Social media influencers and celebrities often promote unrealistic beauty standards and lifestyles, which can distort users’ self-perception and lead to body image issues and low self-esteem, especially among impressionable young audiences.


Additionally, the phenomenon of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is amplified through social media, as users are exposed to the seemingly exciting and fulfilling lives of others. This fear of missing out on experiences showcased online can intensify feelings of jealousy, insecurity, and dissatisfaction with one's own life.

 

 Addiction and psychology dependence on social media

Addiction to social media refers to the compulsive use of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, leading to a loss of control over one's online activities. Psychological dependence occurs when individuals rely on social media for validation, self-esteem, and social interaction.

Factors contributing to social media addiction and psychological dependence include the need for social approval, fear of missing out (FOMO), and instant gratification provided by likes and comments. Additionally, the addictive design features of social media apps, such as endless scrolling and notifications, can reinforce compulsive usage.


Excessive use of social media has been linked to a range of psychological issues, including anxiety, depression, loneliness, and low self-esteem. Moreover, individuals may experience difficulties in forming and maintaining real-life relationships as their primary source of social interaction becomes the digital realm.


Psychologists recommend strategies such as setting time limits, practising mindfulness, and engaging in offline activities to reduce social media addiction. Therapy, both individual and group, can also help individuals address underlying emotional needs and develop healthier coping mechanisms.


Psychological distress is identified by 3 components which are depression, anxiety, and stress. Depression is associated with feelings of hopelessness, self-deprecation, anhedonia and lack of interest. Anxiety pertains to autonomic arousal, and the subjective experience of anxious affect and stress is the persistent feeling of tension and/or excessive worrying in general life situations. Psychological distress is considered a significant risk factor for social media addiction. With Facebook and Instagram use, social media-addicted users exhibit withdrawal, poor planning abilities, tolerance to social media app use, preoccupation, impairment of control, and excessive online time.

DR. NANCY DEANGELIS said, 

Social media platforms drive dopamine surges to the brain to keep consumers coming back repeatedly. The shares, likes and comments on these platforms trigger the brain’s reward centre, resulting in a high similar to the one people feel when gambling or using drugs.”

 

 

 Persuasion and influence on social media

Social media platforms are powerful tools for persuasion and influence, as they allow information to spread rapidly and reach a wide audience. Companies and advertisers use ads, influencer marketing, and social proof to persuade users to buy products or adopt certain beliefs.  

Additionally, social media influencers play a significant role in shaping consumer behaviour and promoting products or services. Influencers leverage their large followings to endorse brands and products, influencing their followers’ purchasing decisions. This form of social influence can lead to impulsive buying behaviours and a sense of inadequacy when individuals compare themselves to the idealised lifestyles portrayed on social media.


Social proof, a psychological phenomenon wherein individuals look to others for cues on how to behave, plays a pivotal role in shaping opinions on social media.

 

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the psychology of social media delves into the profound impact of online platforms on individuals´ lives. Through social media, human behaviour and interactions are significantly influenced, with mental health, self-esteem and relationships being at the forefront of this impact. Social comparison theory sheds light on the detrimental effects of comparing oneself to others on social media, often leading to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Moreover, the pursuit of likes, comments and followers on these platforms can distort users’ perceptions of self-worth and popularity, perpetuating a cycle of seeking validation from virtual interactions. The addictive nature of social media, characterised by dopamine release upon engagement, poses risks to users’ well-being, including decreased real-life social interactions and heightened anxiety levels. To combat these negative consequences, it is imperative for individuals to set boundaries, unfollow toxic accounts and prioritise authentic connections offline. By understanding and acknowledging the psychological effects of social media, individuals can take proactive steps to safeguard their mental health and foster genuine relationships in both virtual and real-world settings.

As explored in this article, social media platforms have the power to influence our emotions, behaviours, and even our self-perception. The constant exposure to carefully curated posts and images can lead to feelings of inadequacy and comparison, contributing to issues like anxiety and low self-esteem. However, social media also offers connections, support and community-building opportunities. By being mindful of our usage and actively engaging with positive content, we can harness the benefits of social media while mitigating its adverse effects. Understanding the psychology behind social media usage is crucial in navigating its influence on our mental well-being and cultivating a healthy relationship with these digital platforms.

 

 

References:

5-      How Social Media Increases the Risk of Cyberbullying. https://evolvetreatment.com/blog/social-media-cyberbullying/

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This article is very interesting. Well explained

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Good Effort.

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Very informative

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Impressive work

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It is very informative and written with good effort and research.😊

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