According to the report Is Generation Y Addicted to Social Media, Millennials have made social media their top priority and continue to need more usage in order to feel satisfied. While social platforms can enhance connection, excessive use can also lead to depression, an element that’s enhanced by the addictive nature of such apps and the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ (FOMO) – the trend that swept the globe post Facebook’s launch.
The truth is that social media affects human psychology in unprecedented ways. It activates the reward center in the brain and releases dopamine in the process – the chemical that regulates feelings of pleasure. So much so that in a recent study, it was revealed that people found it easier to refrain themselves from tobacco and alcohol, as compared to social media.
So while perhaps social media gives us a short-lived shot in the arm, it has been linked to higher levels of loneliness, envy, anxiety, depression, narcissism and decreased social skills. As the narratives we share and portray on social media are predominately positive and celebratory – it is an interesting paradox.
We are seeing the proliferation of users creating an illusion of having more social engagement, social capital, and popularity that in their real life and often are simply masking one’s true persona. Some are leading disconnected, double lives – the one they portray on social networks and their true self, which, for some creates a double consciousness. Your lauded self on social media is constantly seeking more validation through electronic likes, not life. This “Vanity Validation” not only affects the person posting, creating a false and thin sense of self truth, but also robs others who are engaged in the modern-day version of “Keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s the classic social-comparison theory – the idea that individuals are constantly engaged in self-evaluation comparing themselves to others. The theory suggests that our self-esteem is affected by this social comparison and ultimately can adversely affect our determination of self-worth. In fact, 50% say that using social media makes their life worse. Their self-esteem suffers when they compare their accomplishments to that of their online friends.
So what does this mean for digital marketers? Is advertising on social media or working with social media influencers the equivalent to advertising cigarettes – endorsing and indirectly promoting something that damages wellbeing? No, it just means being mindful of your content. Some studies show that social media can have positive effects too by increasing social support, a sense of community, or promoting behavior that does enhance wellbeing. If we explicitly design social media campaigns in this positive way, then social media campaigns have the potential to promote happiness.