IV. Social Media

#cultra #people #socialmedia culture identity power psychological effects social social issues

Have you heard? There is a new evil in town. The first thing you do when you wake up in the morning, and the last thing you do before you shut the lights off; social media. It is linked to depression, anxiety, and a general lowered self-image. So why do people still love it and use it? You can liken it to a drug and say people are just addicted, but it is more than that, and it is more than just a device of evil. If we form healthy relationships with social media, and fully understand it, it can be used as a source of power and a way to connect with the world. 

At its worst, social media cuts off connections from people in real life, leaves us comparing ourselves to others, and glues us to our phones. We can take a break, yet at the end of the week we still find ourselves sheepishly obsessing over someone more successful than we are. It’s only human. At its best, though, people use social media to express themselves and showcase their creativity, without competition. The exchange of ideas on the internet has been an extremely powerful tool in the twenty-first century, and it would be a shame to forgo that opportunity because the alluring evils of social media are too loud. Yet, people find themselves faced with that issue every day. 

One of the main aspects of social media that keeps us coming back is not just entertainment. Receiving likes of retweets or a reaction, stimulates activity in the reward center of your brain. Post something? You get a treat. Developing a healthy relationship with social media is not easy when our brain starts to associate using social media with rewards such as people liking our posts. It’s natural for us to want to feel good. But, by stimulating this brain activity in other places, it gets easier for us to limit our use of social media. If we don’t derive all our happiness and rewards from one source, there’s a large chance that the insecurity and reliance we feel from it will be lessened. It’s great to share your creativity and to be recognized for it, but if it becomes a reliance for validation and instead of just a pat-on-the-back, it becomes a problem.

One way to manage the reward habit is through music. In a study lead by Ben Gold, PhD candidate at McGill University, researchers found that music is another mechanism that triggers the reward center in our brain. While music is more of an abstract type of reward, it has similar reactions to food and money, meaning it was processed in almost the same way. The great thing about music, is that like social media, it fulfills that innate need to feel understood, connected, and heard. If you feel like your social media habits are infringing on your lifestyle, try putting in your headphones and listen to your favorite artist.

Navigating the world is tough. We are faced with so many options and ways to live our lives and sometimes its easy to get caught up and let these options rule our sanity. While social media is just another thing we have that can be good or evil, understanding its effect on us is the first step in forming a healthy relationship with it. 

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