Opinion: Social Media Intoxication - Intoxication Week


By Emma Nolan

Photo courtesy of Owen W Brown.

We live in a world so generally connected by social media, staying in touch with loved ones, friends overseas, or even old high school friends has never been easier. We are connected with just the click of a mouse and all of our friends’ information is laid out for us to scrutinize. Yet the same can be said about our own information.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter — they’re akin to little social resumes we make for ourselves. We write statuses to let everyone know we’re witty and observant, take photos at parties and events to let everyone know how much fun we’re having and take selfies to gain attention and reassurance of our own attractiveness.

When I wake up in the morning the first thing I do is reach for my phone and check my Facebook and Instagram.  I’m sure I’m not alone on this. I continue to check them periodically throughout the day. When it comes to me uploading a photo I get butterflies awaiting the likes to flood in. I call this feeling “Social Media Anxiety”.

If I happen to be out with friends at the time of uploading, I will ask them to like it so as to ease my anxious wait for online approval of whatever I’m trying to show off.

Psychology Today explains, “Compliments derive from taking notice of praiseworthy situations and efforts. So they are a mark of awareness and consciousness.”

Getting lots of likes on a photo of yourself is the online equivalent of someone telling you, “Hey! Well done you for being attractive and reminding us of it every so often.” Approval and flattery makes us feel good, that’s human nature. Receiving a compliment causes our brains to release some sweet endorphins, and the same goes for getting likes online.

CSUN psychology professor, Dr. Delinah Hurwitz tells the website Daily Sundial, “People become hooked to this process because endorphins, a chemical produced by the body that acts as a sedative, rushes through that person’s brain and body every time someone responds to their post.”

We are all familiar with this feeling; we use social media as way of displaying our praiseworthy-ness and soak up the love and likes we garner as a result. However, this cycle of uploading and being rewarded with likes can lead to Social Media Narcissism.

Social Media Narcissism is a modern day phenomenon. And no, we’re not all falling in love with our webcams and dying at our screens, too love sick to move for food and water, but we might getting closer to something of that nature. Dr. Jean M. Twenge, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University and co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement tells The New York Times “There’s a common perception that self-esteem is key to success, but it turns out it isn’t,” she explains “young people are just completely convinced that in order to succeed they have to believe in themselves or go all the way to being narcissistic.”

This blatant online egotism is incredibly prevalent on our Facebook newsfeeds, along with Twitter and Instagram alike. All day, many of us are bombarded by “duck-faced” posers desperate for attention, uploading photo after photo of themselves for their own personal gratification, and why? Because it becomes addictive. The aforementioned endorphins are released as the likes go up and up, the anticipation of who will or who won’t like the photo you’ve uploaded to secure your online presence.

People also have their online identities, where they construct their social media prose and upload photos of themselves which are not true to their real life personas.

“Online environments enable individuals to engage in a controlled setting where an ideal identity can be conveyed” says Soraya Mehdizadeh, a research psychologist whose findings were published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.

Whatever your need for your social media is, whether it be to spy on others, make new friends, promote your interests and personal endeavors or even, promote yourself, we can’t deny the intoxicating nature of social media on our daily lives. Whatever way you look at it, a compliment is a compliment and they boost our self-esteem, so if a Facebook or Instagram “like” or a Twitter “retweet” is the millennial equivalent to a compliment, who are we to deny their positive effects?

Mehdizadeh believes that people with low self-esteem can boost their personal image and self-confidence by using these social media websites.

She tells the Scientific American, “If individuals with lower self-esteem are more prone to using Facebook, the question becomes, ‘Can Facebook help raise self-esteem by allowing patients to talk to each other and help each other in a socially interactive environment?’ I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that people with low self-esteem use Facebook.”

So though the intoxicating nature of receiving likes can boost our self-confidence, it can go too far the other way and result in narcissistic posers, desperate for attention. But aside from social media, we all enjoy a little flattery and compliments in our daily lives. Many of us even fish for them in person, don’t we? The age old practice of ‘fishing for compliments’ has just been elevated to a more public sphere than between two individuals conversing.