What Makes Social Media so Addictive?

I have introduced the topic of Social Media; but why is it so much more compelling than real life interactions for many of us?

On one hand social media is a positive, cost effective way that many of us keep in contact with friends and family all over the world. Here’s my thoughts on the negative impact social media has on us and on our society.

As mentioned in the previous Therapy in London blog entry, what struck me when I lived for 3 days without my mobile phone and social media was the feeling of being left out of the virtual world (what becomes apparent as I write this is just how much of an impact this short space of time had one me). My need to connect with people was all consuming, whether someone had contacted me or not.

Social media on a mobile platform exasperated my all-consuming need to connect with people wherever I am. I can share my thoughts and feelings on something through social media and wait for others to respond, negotiating the need for anyone to contact me directly or in fact, to start a dialog with anyone directly.

We are all then speaking to each other indirectly through posts on statuses or tweets.

I digress slightly from the main focus of this entry.


Achieving without the work

As stated in my Introduction to social media, it seems that by interacting with others original content we are somehow sharing some of the creator’s status or praise.

In the report by vociesofyouth.org, most of us are “ONLY re-blogging, giving stickers, re-pathing rather than inspiring people, writing inspiring stories, criticizing and analyzing everything related to our interests, taking good pictures, or even, creating a new trend.

This in turn makes us lazy as we’re not coming up with any original content!”

This brings up two themes – the first is that:

It stands to reason then, that if many of us are gaining their ego boost through social media by sharing others success; ‘like real life but better’, this may be an apt way of describing what many of us think about social media.

Let’s dwell on the subject for a bit longer to gain an essence of what it is like.

You see something original online that someone has created, by sharing it you instigate a conversation which revolves around not only the creator but you finding the material.

To me, it seems that I’m gaining something by finding the material without any of the labor of creation.

However there is in fact a labor which is rather costly; the labor of time.

Many of us are scouring through Twitter feeds, Instagram photos and Facebook status updates, desperately looking for the next trend to boost not only our ego, but our virtual identity.

It then becomes a part of my own virtual identity with others interacting with the media, via my distribution using social media – much of the glory without any of the work.

By gaining praise in this way many of us may get the emotional fulfillment of success without actually achieving anything.

It follows the same line of thinking in the article about Sharing ones goals. By sharing goals and getting praise we are less likely to achieve them as we have already gained the praise and satisfaction without even beginning to work towards them. We feel we are moving forward but in fact you’re staying still, or rather going backward.

Lowering Our IQ

What I also found interesting in the previous article on how the use of social media may be lowering our IQ.

Daily Mail did a fantastic article on the subject of social media and the internet lowering our IQ. It has stopped us looking for information as it is so readily available on the internet. Combine this with the way many of us regurgitate others original content and “rely more and more on the opinion of others’’ (Dr Rahwan, who is based at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)

He also says; “We are also better at remembering where to look for something on the internet than we are at storing the information itself”

Fear of lacking

Sharing then is a major part of our usage of social media.

From reading comments on articles such as on Psychology Today It seems that many of us feel we’re missing out on life as our friends are living fabulous lives while we sit at home and watch Netflix. This in turn causes distress and melancholy.

Many of us forget that people do not share the mundane parts of our lives but seek to show off our best, choosing not only glamorous life events but pictures that show our best assets.

Why do we Share?

On this note there was a fantastic article written in the Evening Standard Magazine
concerning our relationship to social media:

In essence it brings up the question of why we feel the need to share our social lives with others in order to validate ourselves. Are we more interested in sharing the event than actually witnessing it?

I think Prince was right when he told the audience to put their phones away in order to be ‘in the now’.

By using social media we have somewhere to share our experiences or content (ours or someone else’s) which someone will enviably interact with, boosting or virtual appearance and our ego.

Being alone, even with others

From speaking to people within my community many use social media alone and when with others. If they do not have anything to say or the conversation bores them (they don’t want to seem “sad”) they will get their phone out. They may not look ‘sad’ but they do not see how rude they are being by not listening. One of my pet peeves is people getting out a device while I am talking to them.

From a personal experience it does give us, when with others, an outlet to be in our own thoughts and not participate. The fact of the matter is though that we don’t seem to be in thoughts other than with those connected through a social interaction.

It seems then that we need validation constantly whether physically or virtually.

When alone many of us feel that we want to be seen to be busy or, one participant said, ‘wanted’.

People then are in need of constant stimulation for not only their mind but also for their ego.

A Damaged Ego

Returning back to the Psychology today article, many of us are upset when others don’t respond to us in the way we were expecting (e.g. not liking my status update on Facebook or re tweeting me) or in the time frame that we expect. I think this best sums up how we now relate to the world. We are addicted to speed in many ways and this is exemplified by our online interactions. Add our new need for instant gratification of our egos and what we have is a way of being which does not allow tolerance for things not going how we expect; therefore we could say that technology has shortened our tolerance levels not only in our virtual world but also in our physical world.


Firstly, I have purposely left out online dating which I would like to dedicate more time to in the future. The overriding theme that has become apparent to me is our need for constant social gratification which manifests itself not only in our virtual reality but also our outer, and therefore our inner reality.

However not everyone agrees with this way of thinking. Many see that our anxieties are inherent in being human and that the use of technology is a way our anxieties are experienced in our technological society.

The question which springs to mind now is did technology affect society or did society affect technology?

Philip Karahassan