Why Are We Obsessed With Social Media?


Ashley Aguilar, Author

Social media is all around us. Every day there are new posts, new followers, more likes, but what is people’s obsession with it? Why do they feel the need to have more followers and likes?

Social media is an important way to stay in touch with friends, family, and connect with new people, but there is a downside too. Spending too much time focusing on social media can cause powerful negative emotions like sadness, jealousy, loneliness, stress, anxiety, and embarrassment, according to Larry D. Rosen writing in Psychology Today.

One of the first things people do in the morning is check their feeds. Regardless of the platform, one of the first checkpoints is the notification tab. Has anyone liked something of mine? Has anyone tagged me?

Why is it so addictive?

You know that little rush you get when your post gets more likes than normal? There is a reason for that rush: dopamine. According to Jordan Mendys writing in Tech Addiction, for every thumbs up or heart, a person gets a little psychological high through a shot of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain that plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. The more likes we get, the more we want.

A study on the effect that social media has on teenagers’ brains demonstrated that people are more likely to engage with posts that have been liked by a large number of their peers, according to the Association for Psychological Science.

As social beings we like to talk about ourselves — a lot, either directly or indirectly. According to Psychology Today, we talk about ourselves nearly 40 percent of the time, and when using a keyboard, it doubles to 80 percent. And in face to face communication, which is awkward and quick, we don’t have time to think of the words before they leave our mouths.

Why do we want to be liked?

“I think we feel the need to be liked — we say we don’t care about being liked, but in reality we do,” says Lexie Mayestas, an SFHS student. “We obsess so much on how we look because we do care what people think.”

A student who wished to remain anonymous said, “At this point I don’t care anymore about being liked. Some people are just not going to like you in person or on social media. If I’m being honest, there’s people on my social media I haven’t even met and I don’t like them and I know out there there’s someone who doesn’t like me either, so to me it doesn’t matter if I’m liked or not. It’s the ugly truth.”

Facebook was launched in 2007, but did not introduce its “like” button until 2009. How did we ever use Facebook without the like button? We all want to be liked, right?

SFHS student Daniela Menjivar says, “I think people feel the need to have a lot of followers and likes on social media because they want more attention, or they want to feel better about themselves, knowing that people think that they are cute, pretty, or whatever you want to call it.”

According to Sarah Fader writing on the website of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, there is a link between social media followers and money. Both are based on numbers, and with both, the sky’s the limit. Enough is never enough.

It is nice having followers and getting likes, but at what point do we realize we have “enough” followers? Is that point a hundred followers? A thousand? A million? Is there a point where we can be satisfied with how many followers we have? Is there a way to end the social media madness?

Yes, there is a way: Quit social media.