The Brain Issue: 12 accounts and counting


Celia Bergman

Social media isn’t just addictive, it changes the way we view ourselves and our peers. 

I have 12 social media accounts. I’m fully aware that it’s ridiculous, but before you lecture me about screen time, take a look at your phone. I’m not the only one with a problem here. On average, most people have between seven and eight apps that are considered social media according to Marketing Tech News. People with a multitude of social media accounts have become confined within the toxic world of likes, retweets and followers. Yes, I said the t-word. Social media seems harmless starting out, I know. You create an account, connect with your friends and even post a little. Next thing you know, you’re on 12 platforms and can’t seem to part ways with your phone for five minutes because, you might be missing out on something. It’s called FOMO people. Look it up. 

When that first like appears in your notifications center, you’re a goner. And it’s not entirely your fault. Our brains are hard-wired to love social media. I’m about to go full AP Psych here, so bear with me. 

According to Bustle, an American women’s magazine, research shows that our brain’s reward circuit becomes significantly more active when we (especially teens) receive a large number of likes on our photos. This motivates us to use social media frequently. 

Our brain loves attention, so when you finally hit that 400th like, your reward system lights up, allowing you to become more addicted to social media. But hey, it’s not totally your fault, right? 

Social media isn’t just addictive, it changes the way we view ourselves and our peers.  I’ve noticed there is a schedule when it comes to posting a picture on many platforms, especially Instagram. Your content needs to be relevant to your followers, otherwise you won’t get the “socially acceptable” amount of likes, which could tarnish your reputation and future posting abilities. If you find yourself uploading pictures a month after the event, it’s time to rethink your social media work ethic. You can’t just post your photo at any time, it needs to either be a) around the same time as everyone else if you’re posting after an event such as prom or b) in the evening, because that’s when everyone is on their phone instead of doing homework. The photo needs to have an aesthetic vibe that coordinates with past pictures, otherwise your account won’t be worth stalking. Lastly, you can’t post any photo you please; content such as a favorite album or a picture of your coffee is reserved for your story. It needs to be an edited picture where you look good. Sometimes, everyone else needs to take one for the team so your Facetune skills can shine. 

When we view photos with more likes than our own, our neural regions that assist with imitation and attention light up, so we try to recreate what we see on other accounts to (hopefully) receive similar results. This is how everyone develops their “perfect” life on social media; our brains can’t help but copy what others are doing. To an outsider, your life looks unique and oh so aesthetically pleasing-little do they know your whole account is a knockoff of everyone else’s. 

It’s depressing how much pressure we place on our social media appearance. In 10 years no one is going to care that your photo from hoco only got 95 likes. I’m going to start fixing my attitude toward social media by working against my brain’s reward system and posting photos for the fun of it, not because I think they’ll get over 100 likes. I’m aware that it will be difficult, and there will definitely be anxiety filled moments, but I’m confident that after a while, I’ll find a healthier and happier version of myself staring at the screen.