Essay on Psychological Impact of Social Media

Published: 2021/11/18
Number of words: 2497


Acceleration of information and communication needs by businesses and individuals using available online spaces and its collection of tools is what is referred to as social media. There is no doubt that the advent of social media has revolutionized communication channels between individuals for the better. The following are the common types of social media and how they differ from each other:

  1. WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook are social networking sites that assist in dissemination of information and marketing.
  2. Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram are media sharing networking sites that are commonly utilized for sharing videos, photos and other media content.
  3. Quora is a discussion forum. It is mostly used for finding news, information, sharing information and having discussions.
  4. Tumblr is the most popular social blogging network site and is used for reaching good writers, help people demonstrate their skills and knowledge as well as share information.
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Each one of us uses some sort of social media in the current cultural and technological climate. In tandem with Perloff (2014), 89% of individuals between 17 and 29 years old utilize some kind of social media. In comparison, 79% of the 30 to 49 age bracket reported the use of some sort of social media. In the next age group, the numbers of social media users dip but not significantly since 63% of individuals between 50 and 64 years old consume social media routinely. This exposes the prevalent use of social media in our societies and culture since this is a generation that was never raised in the internet or social media age. More focus should be given to the effects on individual users since social media has pervaded across all ages. The way we absorb information and think is being changed by social media’s connection and endless stream of communication. Presently, people across the world are developing habits related to social media that are beneficial as much as they can be harmful to their health mentally. Since these newly acquired social media habits are poised to continue relentlessly, it is incumbent upon scholars and researchers to analyze and determine the effects of social media on the mental health of our increasingly connected communities.

The brain and social media

In unique ways, various brain functions are affected by social media use from a neurological perspective. The impact of social media on the brain appears in different ways since it contains numerous combinations of stimuli that can elicit varied reactions. Multiple brain parts are affected by positive attention on social media. Instagram, Twitter or Facebook likes result in the activation of areas around ventral tegmental and striatum. These are the same areas of the brain that are activated when one receives likes from other people. In people’s bodies, the rewards system is determined primarily by the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA). In part, dopamine receptors are facilitated by VTA and they are fired off in the brain when one receives positive feedback (likes) when using social media.

Best et al. (2014) carried out a study that revealed similar results. The researchers monitored the activity of the brain using MRI technology. The study revealed that the adolescents’ brains had greater activity in the neural areas associated with attention, imitation, social cognition and reward processing when browsing Instagram photos with many likes. Social media users should realize the possibility for abuse and the power of this platform since it is so tightly connected to individuals’ rewards systems. In a similar capacity, the brain’s rewards system can be easily ruled over by things like narcotic drugs and gambling. To avoid potential pitfalls, users of social media should be cognizant of these parallels.

The functions of emotional processing and decision-making of the brain are affected by social media stimuli outside the rewards system. Crone & Konijn (2018) also carried out research on adolescents’ brain activity and came to the conclusion that when the teenagers felt excluded, their brains’ sensory and emotional processing reacted noticeably. The impact of exclusion in the social platform on the adolescents’ growing brain is highlighted in this study. In essence, reaction takes place directly in these specific regions of the brain when users of social media are excluded from events, chats, and online groups. Studies on social media and the reaction it elicits in various brain parts are still in their infancy. There is still a lot of room for improvement despite current research showing an understanding of the impact social media has on various brain parts.

Social media posting

Different platforms of social media see individuals posting different materials. People have the tendency of choosing the Instagram platform for posting pictures while Twitter is mostly chosen for posting short bits of text such as jokes. Apart from the psychological factors that influence what qualifies to be posted and does not, so much goes into picking what to post where.

Social media posting motivations

It is almost an impossible task fingering why people post whatever they do. Nonetheless, general posting motivations can easily be grasped by understanding some substantial behaviors associated with social media. Yang & wang (2015) discovered that posting motivations had different tiers. According to the researchers, sharing content has psychological incentives. The human needs hierarchy by psychologist Abraham Maslow has been adapted to explain why individuals consume updates and post. The reasons include:

  • Self-actualization. According to the hierarchy of human needs, this is the most important facet. The manifestation of this is when people post their successes such as graduating from school, completing an arduous project, or getting a job.
  • This sis manifested when people regularly post self-centered content in order to quell their rewards-oriented brain parts.
  • Social acceptance from a particular person or a group of people maybe the reason behind one posting whatever they post.
  • Some material posted on social media maybe posted in order for one to feel secure financially, mentally and physically.
  • Physiological needs. Ones family’s or even friends’ well-being and health are benefitted when people post sometimes.

The motivation behind posting content on social media has recently begun being confronted by the psychological world. Yang &Wang (2015) further found out that media sharing behavior was determined by emotional and social influences. Additionally, the study states that the reason behind some adolescents posting material regularly on social media was because that is how they were reared since childhood. Generally, traditional forms of communication play similar roles as the social networking sites according to adolescents and young adults. According to this group of people, the two share similarities since they are both used to present oneself to others, get to know people better, make plans and stay in touch with friends. Engaging and posting on social media shapes the identities of adolescents according to the same study. Hwong et al. (2017) asserted that self-esteem and positive social media feedback are the reasons behind posting on social media. The influence for posting on social media is derived from the quest of follows and likes. Among numerous users, social sharing is inspired by positive attention some users receive for posting. Essentially, the prime motivation for posting is to connect with others from a psychological point because the social media nature is centered on communication. For some, major psychological problems can result due to the continuous search for validation, acceptance and exposure on social media.

Addiction to social media

In the last half a decade, a lot of consideration has been directed towards social media dependency. The addictive tendencies of some social media users have become a subject of research studies since the boom of social networking applications. Crone & Konijn (2018) identified general exclusion anxiety and low self-esteem as the reasons behind one becoming addicted to social networking sites. They explain that smartphone addiction extends and connects to the addiction of social media and addiction levels are a function of socio-demographic data. The researchers tend to believe that addiction of social media may be linked to fear of missing out (FOMO). The underlying problem of addiction makes people more inclined to consume or post on social media.

Since problems of dependence have been reported by a growing number of people, addiction to social media sites has gained traction in academics. According to a 2018 research study that detailed the effects of excessive use of social media, moderate social media users have a relatively better outlook on their social standing. In contrast, self-esteem associated negatively with addictive use of social media. Lowered self-esteem was directly linked to a lack of satisfaction in the lives of the same respondents. In response to individuals who have addictive tendencies, the research study explores techniques that be used by professions in mental health science to conduct screening and treatment (Turel et al., 2018).

Self-concept change from using social media

Personalities are expressed in unique ways courtesy of the use of social media. An unprecedented opportunity to develop a new personality has been afforded to users of social media since they can curate the materials on their profiles and also create multiple accounts. A conflict with, a complement to or an alignment with the users’ real personalities can result from these new digital identities.

Shaping identity through social media

The landscape of social media is a prerequisite of understanding how the platform shapes identities of individuals. Social media has become hybridized a lot to become more dynamic, and malleable than the prior networks. Users have the ability to:

  • Change their identities.
  • Use of social media profiles which are curated in order to alter the way others think of them.
  • Expansion of social reach through social media tools.
  • Have virtual identities that conceal their otherwise “terrible” real identities.

Identity formation is in the hands of the user as guaranteed by social media technology. Difficulties and problems that are indelible and irreparable can result if social media is used by very young people irresponsibly and therefore it should be used by a more mature population (Best et al., 2014). It is alarming as it is empowering to have the ability to create one’s identity from a psychological standpoint. Impressive advantages and severe consequences can accrue from the power of social media of being able to build an entirely new personality as well as create a real identity.

Self-perception effects on social media

The need to perpetually compare oneself with others puts the self-mage of a social media user under a microscope. It is through engagements that these comparisons are made frequently. Perloff (2014) discovered that the image-oriented and intimate Pinterest and Instagram are the social media platforms where identities can be sharpened. As a function of image based platforms (Instagram), life satisfaction and happiness may increase while there might be a decrease in loneliness. In comparison, ineffectuality is reported in text-based media (Twitter). The new identities build can have a positive impact on individuals who are plagued by low self-esteem and view themselves negatively. They trick others into thinking that they are someone else, even though it is not always malicious. This concept is known as catfishing in the context of dating services on social media.

Social media fitting

Acceptance received from different quarters within social media acts as a huge incentive to use social media. Benefits and drawbacks exist from this group-focused direction just like in all other aspects of social media. The ability to connect and reach out to different people across the world that have similar interests is one of the biggest advantages of social media. Individuals from distant or smaller communities benefit a lot from belonging to different groups and also they can immensely profit psychologically. However, the behavior or the way someone thinks can be significantly altered as a result of intimate or close association with the groups.

Mental health and social media

People’s psychological behaviors can be positively or negatively influenced by social media platforms outside of the ability to dominate mental and emotional conditions. As much as social media can improve the psychological well-being of a user dramatically, it can also negatively impact the users’ mental health.

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Social media benefits

A lot of the focus when it comes to social media is the disadvantages. However, there are several potential cons that stretch across all demographics. Several relationship and mental health benefits accrue as a result of social media for a millennials who predominantly consume this platform. As the youth transition to adulthood, social media becomes a good avenue for happiness and friendship (Manago & Vaughn, 2015). Owing to the ease of access of information regarding friends and interests, the youth can create stronger bonds with friends. Other psychological advantages of social media include introduction to other people’s perspectives, sustaining and creating new relations, support groups availability, lifestyle motivations and social integration with persons who share the same interests.

Social media mental health consequences

As seen above, social media can have its advantages; however, its toxic effects on the users make it rightly critiqued. In teenagers, there is a severe manifestation of this kind of anxiety. Adolescents must confront less frequent face-to-face interactions, sleep deprivation, toxic comparisons, trolls and cyber-bullying. Better models of engagement for social media need to build by educators, parents and other role models in order to counter the negative of social media on adolescents’ mental well-being.


Best, P., Manktelow, R., and Taylor, B. (2014). Online communication, social media and adolescent wellbeing: A systematic narrative review. Children and Youth Services Review, 41, 27-36.

Crone, E. A., and Konijn, E. A. (2018). Media use and brain development during adolescence. Nature communications, 9, 1-10.

Hwong, Y. L., Oliver, C., Van Kranendonk, M., Sammut, C., and Seroussi, Y. (2017). What makes you tick? The psychology of social media engagement in space science communication. Computers in Human Behavior, 68, 480-492.

Manago, A. M., and Vaughn, L. (2015). Social media, friendship, and happiness in the millennial generation. In Friendship and happiness (pp. 187-206). Springer, Dordrecht.

Perloff, R. M. (2014). Social media effects on young women’s body image concerns: Theoretical perspectives and an agenda for research. Sex Roles, 71, 363-377.

Turel, O., Brevers, D., and Bechara, A. (2018). Time distortion when users at-risk for social media addiction engage in non-social media tasks. Journal of psychiatric research, 97, 84-88.

Yang, H. C., and Wang, Y. (2015). Social sharing of online videos: Examining American consumers’ video sharing attitudes, intent, and behavior. Psychology & Marketing, 32, 907-919.

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