In today’s world our social media use takes up a large portion of our time. Many persons
spend hours scrolling through the different social media apps and websites consuming the content that is put before them. Have you ever asked yourself “what am I getting from social media and what would I like to receive from my social media consumption”? Furthermore, do you find yourself addicted to engaging with one or more of the various social media platforms?
Social media usage can activate the brain’s reward center by releasing dopamine, a “feel-
good chemical” which is linked to pleasurable activities such as sex, food and social
These platforms can also lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. Thus, it is
important to assess the reason why you are using a particular platform, your aim for utilizing this platform and what are you currently receiving from this platform.
Social Media use can have a reinforcing nature, and it is important to ask yourself, is it reinforcing something positive or something negative in my life. Reinforcement can be used as a tool to empower and reinforce positive behaviors or it can be used as a platform to create doubt within individuals and cause them to develop low self-esteem or devalue themselves.
Individuals will continue to use social media for one or more of the following reasons: To
reinforce positive attributes that a person may have about themselves; to depict a reality that they would like to engage or emulate; and, to encourage lifestyle changes as it relates to health, wellness, fitness, wardrobe, positive thinking or developing an improved business.
Persons may also use social media as a means of connecting with persons who are having the same experience as they are, and it may help persons to find their “tribe” or link them to a particular community. For example, persons who share similar interests, similar sexual orientation, similar hobbies or similar medical conditions. As such, social media can act as an informal support group.
Social Media can enable individuals to:
Communicate and stay up to date with family and friends around the world.
Find new friends and communities; network with other people who share similar interests or ambitions.
Join or promote worthwhile causes; raise awareness on important issues.
Seek or offer emotional support during tough times.
Find an outlet for your creativity and self-expression.
Learn new thing, as many of us can say we learnt a thing or two on TIKTOK.
However, social media can also reinforce negative attributes that an individual has about themselves and they may continue to engage with “social media content” even though it makes them feel less than capable or worthy daily. Although persons may know a picture is edited or a body was surgically created, they may use this as a measuring stick for their natural bodies that can lead to eating disorders or excessive gym usage. Additionally, many
persons have a “fear of missing out”, where persons want to feel involved and may develop a sense of anxiety if they feel like they are missing out on current activities or trends. It can also contribute to self-absorption through the sharing of endless pictures and the continuous sharing of their innermost thoughts for the attention and acceptance of others.
Excessive use can be a symptom of a bigger problem that a person is currently experiencing.
Next week we will continue by looking at how you can tailor your social media for a healthier experience.
Ms. Ellica Matthews
MSc. Clinical Psychology