What Makes Social Media So Addictive?

Do you often feel the urge to use social media from time to time; the urge to comment, the urge to tell the whole world what you are doing currently, or anything you have inside your head?

Well, if your answer is “yes”, you are no different from the general population, including myself, haha…

But then, the important question would be “Why?” Why do we have an itch for opening up Facebook or tweeting?

There are three answers I’ve found that might be captivating to ponder on. Don’t worry, though, as I won’t judge whether you’re doing it right or wrong regarding this kind of addiction because I believe every one of us has his/her own addiction, of which sometimes it can be more than one.

I’m only mustering the answers that can explain why people, including you and myself, can be addicted to social media.


1. Unpredicted Rewards Similar to Slot Machine

Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, said that one of the reasons why we somewhat feel encouraged to check in to social media is unpredicted rewards – prizes that we weren’t expecting before.

You can watch his short explanation in the video below if you don’t have any connection problems.

He argued that when we check in to social media, we will find more pieces of information that probably are not really that interesting.

However, sometimes we will also find a piece of information that would appear more like a valuable hidden treasure – things like memes, jokes, quotes, photos of our significant other, or maybe even photos of our exes who were in his/her perfect form, LOL…

This kind of treasure (unpredicted reward) is what makes us feel that we need to go back into that place again and get an instant emotional spike. Wu noted that this feeling is similar to what we can get from slot machines or fishing.


2. People Love to Talk about Themselves

In a journal titled Online Social Networking and Addictions – A Review of the Psychological Literature by Daria J. Kuss and Mark D. Griffiths, it is said that internet addiction has a strong relation with egocentrism.

Furthermore, social media is able to facilitate egocentric behaviors very well. For example, you can post a selfie. You can show where you are, what you’re doing at the moment, and many other things.

Social media feels like your own medium that you can use to build a public image of yourself – or more popularly known as personal branding.

There are people who want to be called pretty, there are people who want to be perceived as smart, there are people who want to be considered rich and many other positive traits.

To reiterate, I’m not here to judge anyone. I’m just giving out examples of what can be considered personal branding. I suppose there isn’t anything wrong with it as long as you know what the consequences are.


3. Fast Rewards with Minimal Efforts

Did you know that when you are preoccupied with social media, your brain produces dopamine, which is very much associated with satisfaction, reward, and happiness?

As a matter of fact, your brain produces dopamine not only when you are hooked into social media, but also when you are doing many other activities; such as playing games, watching movies, cooking, writing short stories, drawing, getting home from work, and millions of other activities.

But then again, interacting with social media can result in your brain producing dopamine more quickly, using minimal efforts.

For example, just compare tweeting or posting a status update to cooking. You’d need at least half an hour to cook (I mean cooking a decent meal, of course, not instant noodle or simply boiling water), while commenting on Facebook or tweeting can be done in just 30 seconds or less.

Not to mention the amount of energy needed is also very different. Cooking is tiring, at least for me, LOL… Especially when I need to grind chilli into paste… Meanwhile, typing a comment in social media only requires two thumbs if you’re using a phone.

Other creative activities like playing a guitar, writing short stories, or experimenting with Adobe Illustrator also require you to have some sort of mastery before you can get the satisfaction from them.



Finally, other than these three answers, I’m pretty sure there are many other answers that might explain the reason why we really like to immerse ourselves in social media, like how it is considered a necessity for us as social creatures.

Nonetheless, those three answers are perhaps the ones that people aren’t very much aware of. For me personally, I’m one of the people who hold dearly what Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living…

Jakarta, December 10, 2016

Yabes Elia

Translated by Glenn Kaonang

Yabes Elia Written by:

Have been playing around in the gaming industry since December 2008. An atypical writer who loves philosophy, games, and porn...

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