While researching this topic I found an article written by Billi Gordon: “How social media is harmful to your brain and relationships”. (PsychologyToday)
The phrase that stood out the most was “Right place, wrong brain” What he meant by this, is that our brain isn’t up to date with the new technology. Our brain still lives in the society where we have to be afraid of bears and wolves. Our brain really needs an update, but it seems our brain evolves very slowly, last change has been about 6 000 (Correct me if I am wrong) years ago, and major changes were probably 10 000 years ago if not more.
According to Gordon’s article, there have been negative impacts to our health from overuse of the internet. Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) in our brain, that monitors our social needs, doesn’t see the difference between social behavior online and in real life. This means that we get as much dopamine, the feel-good hormone, from a successful picture post to Instagram as we would if we would have an actual conversation with a person.
This also means if we don’t get “enough” likes our pleasure hormone levels go into deficits. This experience could be compared to being banished from a tribe for our ancestors, as Gordon states. The problem with VTA in regards to social media is that is can’t control its reactions. It is too primitive.
Social media encounters are seen as a threat by our brain, and internet trolls and death threats aren’t helping our brain with that. These experiences are stored in the hippocampus that works as the memory center in our brain. It then compares what it sees on the outside with the information that it has already obtained. Technically every time we are on social media, we are reinforcing some sort of a version of the reality into our hippocampus, whether it’s negative or positive.
Due to the perceived threat, our Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal axis initiates the stress response. The same as in the old times would have made us run from wild animals. The issue with is is that stress in small doses is perfectly normal, healthy even. But stress on the daily, many times a day can lead to elevated blood pressure, which is meant to help us in a fight or flight situation.
Too much stress can lead to cardiovascular diseases, insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity plus many other health issues, whether physical or mental. Stress makes us reactive, as we stop thinking logically and think with the animal part of the brain “Survive now, ask questions later” as Gordon put in his article.
It also makes us more awkward in actual social situations, online we are way more comfortable just saying what we think and being ourselves (or assholes sometimes). A YouTube video by Asapscience mentioned 5 ways that social media is changing our brains and behavior. First of all due to the fast dopamine release when we use social media 5-10% of internet users are not fully in control of when they use it. Have you sometimes noticed that you reach for your phone because you swear you heard a bling or it “vibrated”? This phenomenon is called Phantom vibration syndrome and it is fairly new, but the idea of it is terrifying. Can you imagine, that your brain is so addicted to the social media, it will imagine a sound just to get to check it again?
Dopamine releases are so addictive, that actual brain scans reveal that people with drug addiction have similar impairment in their brains as internet addicts.
What else are we all addicted to? Talking about ourselves, in a normal face to face conversation we talk about ourselves 30-40% but online it is up to 80%. And imagine how much dopamine is released when you are celebrated by hundreds of people? Or how horrible it feels if no one likes that one super cute picture of you?
Social media is giving us the same dopamine boosts as love, motivation, and orgasms give. Imagine the generation that would rather just sit on the computer than find love or have the satisfaction of finishing a demanding task. Or that likes to pretend that we achieved something just because the picture of our dog got up to 100 likes (or more, if you are really famous online), oh wait that generation sounds a bit like the current one… oh shit…
What is the harm in being addicted to social media/internet? Spending hours in front of the computer for work, plus social media? Not going out with real friends because Friends are airing their 6000000th episode? (Or you have to watch all the previous ones) Not being satisfied with anything because it doesn’t happen in 1.5 seconds? All of these things are going to affect your life and how fulfilled you feel in it. I have often felt and still feel like I am unmotivated and “shit” at something because it doesn’t happen fast enough. Or I start looking at social media or my email in the morning and I feel like I don’t even want to get up because that girl is so pretty and I am not and also I have to answer to 5 emails.
Schedule social media and emails in, if you lose people with taking care of yourself? Well, then those people weren’t supposed to follow or be your friends anyway. Adios to them!
It has been a while since I have written, how this post makes up for it a bit. I should be back with full vengeance again. Please tell me what you thought about this blog and what you would like to learn next. Until next time
Social Media Is Harmful to Your Brain and Relationships, Billi Gordon, Ph.D.
5 Crazy ways Social Media is changing your brain right now, AsapScience, Youtube
Is the human brain still evolving?