Is Social Media Exploiting Your Mind?

*Beep Beep!*

And a new notification pops on your phone. You take the phone out of pocket, eagerly looking for a new message, or maybe a like on your post on FB, Insta or wherever, or someone commenting or tagging someone else on your post. But you find it to be another text message by your service provider. Nevertheless, you check your story which you posted on Instagram to see how many people viewed it in the past few hours. Did you get 60 views? Great You don’t feel underviewed. After few minutes you check again and you are surprised to see that now it turned 65 – a big jump! You anticipate the views to grow today and at the back of your mind you feel delighted, put it another way, you feel famous. 

Next, you find a meme on FB, take a screenshot, and then post it as your WhatsApp status. Now you expect your contacts to see it, especially those who are dear to you or a person whom you have a crush on. You want to prove that you have a good sense of humour and you find a suitable meme for that. Bingo! And the person viewed it, along with that, you bagged significant views this time. Few people reacted to the meme which you had put on as your status, and you give their reaction a feedback with an emoji. That was a great day for you (as in, the story disappears after 24 hours).

This keeps large social networking platforms active by creating a loop and using your likes and interests to leverage their revenues. 

It’s all in our psychology :

All major social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and even Twitter to that extent use such algorithm to promote advertisements which suits your liking. In technical words, you have a cognitive bias to certain things and your mind expects to see. Say for example, if you are interested in movies or TV shows, then you will always tend to search for such type of content, like read fan theories, predictions, news about shows and celebrities etc. All major social networks know your interests and biases based on your seaeches which they learn over time. So if you want more of memes in your feed, then you don’t have to make any effort to search for it, it will learn about your preferences​ and direct all contents which are filled with memes.

Memes are addictive, and that is what drives FB and other platforms. It is unanimously liked by the youth and that is why it is thriving in every platform. Without memes, all these platforms will lose their traction. People tend to like or give a laugh reaction on any meme regardless of how funny it is. This is why the laugh reaction and love reaction are placed next to the like reaction so that it makes it easy for the person to send their reaction and all other reactions come after it. Memes are subtle way of depicting comedy. But they also keep you hooked to that particular platform. This becomes a habit which leads you to always keep scrolling posts even without knowing the purpose. 

Getting hooked onto Facebook is unknowingly the best way to kill stress. But under stress people look out for rescue and they seek refuge in such things. Stress, peer influence and various other factors cause people to get into all sorts of addiction. Addiction to social media is almost similar to addiction to drugs. Before heroin was banned all over the world, it was used as a drug prescribed to treat cough as it was believed to be a non addictive substitute for morphine. This turned out to be a disaster as it was later found that the drug was highly addictive and led patients to buy more of it. Heroin had adverse effects on the persons body. Although social media is less harmful, it psychological makes a person unfit to face the society. Withdrawal effects of social media are similar to the effects​ caused by drugs. 

The Like Machine

Instagram’s Like feature is very well designed to serve it to your cognitive ease. Unlike the Facebook Like feature, Instagram makes it easier for individuals to like any post which they see on their phones. But this creates a loop for addicts to like posts on Insta even if the content has nothing much to do with the person’s interest. Now when you upload a post on Instagram, you at the back of your mind post it with the intention of checking what people think about you. The more likes you get, the more incentives it is for you and you upload more such posts. On the contrary, lower likes makes you worried. The reason is simple – you want people to respond to your post. When someone likes your post, you feel goodabout it. If someone comments on it, then that is great. So, the Like feature is all about your expectations from people which triggers an emotional response as you get more or the less of it. The more the Likes, the more complacent you are about yourself, the less the Likes, it will make you feel insecure about yourself​ on Instagram. This creates a feedback loop which keeps people hooked on Instagram for long hours.

WhatsAppening to my mind?
Ever since WhatsApp introduced stories, people initially didn’t found it to be of any use. But that later on died down. Stories are one of the best examples of how Facebook, the parent organisation of WhatsApp, is keeping people hooked onto WhatsApp. If you ask me why I am talking about stories, then I shall tell you how it works. On all the four platforms, FB, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, stories are implemented. But WhatsApp and Instagram stories are much well-known than the rest two. 

The story feature is an example of how our insecurities are being exploited by in order to upload more of it. The views a person gets when he uploads a story acts as an incentive for the brain’s reward system. The more the views, the more he is willing to upload stories on WhatsApp. If the person doesn’t get enough views, they will find it uncomfortable as it triggers our inner insecure feelings. Which again creates a loop. Certain people will upload certain type of stories on both Insta and WhatsApp. Many of my friends upload motivational quotes and good morning messages (although it has become outdated). I prefer putting memes in my WhatsApp story. So I would wait for people to react to it. And it works. This feedback system creates a loop and keeps people hooked to WhatsApp and Instagram.

A large majority of us hate to admit or fail to realise that they are addicted to Social Media platforms. Taking selfie, uploading status, changing profile picture, sharing post are some ways by which we are hooked to all such apps. People spend a lot of time in all this activities and they tend to procrastinate on issues which matter to them. If social media is bringing people together, at the same time it is fracturing our society in a myriad of ways. One such way is psychologically and the others are trolling and hatred. While some seem to be very active on Facebook, in actuality we may find them to be the people who lost their motivation to do anything in life. In order to make money, these social media networks, although giving us services without any paywall, are actually exploiting our minds for the purpose of generating higher profits and maintaining steady revenue streams for the advertisements which companies put for their services. For that to happen, they share our information about our likes and tastes which they sell it to the advertisers in exchange of advertisements on your feeds. 

2 thoughts on “Is Social Media Exploiting Your Mind?

  1. Another high (super) quality article. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and bringing all these perspectives from psychology. It makes it a very interesting read. I’m happy that right now I realise the addiction and many times I ask myself now – what are you doing with your phone in your hands again? 🤣 Yesterday I was also listening to a psychologist who was bringing attention to the fact that we spend so much time trying to connect with those who are far away (behind a screen), that we forget to treasure the person who’s sitting next to us. What a great attention call, and it has everything to do with what you wrote.

    1. Thank you so much Vanessa for reading. I’m glad for your comment on this article. Even I am addicted to Facebook and WhatsApp, but I also learnt how they are manipulating us to keep us wired in for long. And yes, that’s very true, we spend less time with those whom we meet on a daily basis and instead we talk to random strangers whom we don’t even know
      Thanks for your insights! Stay up for more…

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