When someone creates a new post and sends it into the internet it becomes raw and vulnerable, open to the opinions of others. Such opinions are expressed through comments, shares, and most critically- ‘likes’. Social media runs on ‘likes’. Facebook marketing is evaluated based on how many ‘likes’ a page, a post, or a photo receives.
Numerous studies have been released examining the effect of Facebook and use of social media on the brain. Some have likened the effect of Facebook to the effects produced by cocaine. Increasingly, treatment centers are opening up specifically designed for technology, internet, video game, and social media addiction. Young people in particular seem drawn to the intoxicating process of creating, posting, and consuming social media. Their substance of choice? The likes.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain which can be interpreted as a messenger system. In reaction to certain stimuli- like drugs and alcohol- dopamine is communicates messages of pleasure to the nearby reward center of the brain. Those messages are then translated to other parts of the brain including memory channels. Making note of the stimuli causing pleasurable sensations, the brain remembers and wants to participate again. On the next occurrence, dopamine is produced again, communicating pleasure and reward once more. This is the neurobiological process of positive reinforcement. Young people experience this process when they watch their published social media content receive the positive feedback of getting ‘liked’.
One study analyzed teenagers’ brain activity when they viewed their published images which were receiving a lot of ‘likes’. Researchers created a fake social media platform similar to Instagram. The teens assumed that the ‘likes’ were coming from their peers, though researchers informed them differently. According to the researchers, “there was greater activity in neural regions of the brain involved with reward processing, social cognition, imitation, and attention…” Compared to the neural reactions triggered when the teenagers viewed their published images with fewer likes, the difference was striking.
Through life and the process of recovery, we learn to validate ourselves beyond the judgments of our peers. By mercy and grace we are given the unconditional love and approval by a creator who made us wholly and wonderfully. We learn to evaluate our own hearts for ourselves and not as we would appear to others. Guided by the will and love of a heavenly father, we cease to need the ‘reward’ of social inclusion. Our greatest reward comes from the peace and serenity we experience by being connected to Him. Each day sober is the greatest reinforcement we could possibly receive.