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How Instagram impacts us without us realizing it

Social media use has quadrupled over the last decade and a half. Meanwhile, just 5% of adults in the United States registered using the social media site in 2005, that figure is now about 70%. But, specifically, it’s amazing how Instagram impacts us without us realizing it.

Development in the amount and time spent on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat as well as other social media networks have garnered awareness and anxiety among policymakers, students, parents, and practitioners about the effect of social media on our lives and mental well-being.

Though science is only in its early years—Facebook itself just marked its 15th anniversary this year—media psychology scholars are continuing to mislead the aspects in which the time spent on these sites is and is not, influencing our everyday lives.

Time-consuming in social media

People commit approximately 30–40% of all expressions to communicate about themselves. But that figure jumps to almost 80 percent of social media posts online. This is a big leap!

Why? Talking face-to-face is chaotic and emotionally engaging—we don’t have time to think about what to say, we have to decipher facial cues and body language. Online, we’ve got time to develop and refine. This is what psychologists call self-presentation: positioning yourself in the direction you want to be viewed.

The impression we get from consciousness is so intense that it has been proven to improve your self-esteem by seeing your own Facebook profile. What is also fascinating for advertisers is that the most influential direction we prefer to operate on self-presentation is by stuff—purchasing things and acquiring things that mean who we are. And that’s precisely how Instagram impacts us without us realizing it.

The level of emotion people will feel for their favorite products, as a result, is unbelievable. The trial showed the participants two styles of images: the logo of the company they liked and the photos of their partners and close friends. Their physiological enthusiasm for the logo was as intense as the excitement of staring at a photo of their best mate. Stuff, by definition, brands—are a large part of who and what we are.

Instagram monthly active users
Instagram monthly active users

Why do we share on social media?

If we want to talk about ourselves too much what will make us share something with someone else? Passing information on this is an instinct for which we are hard-wired. Only the idea of sharing stimulates the reward centers of our brain, long before we did something. Next, it gets down to our own self-image: 68% of people say they post to give others a greater understanding of who they are and what they care for. But the main factor we share is for other people: 78% of people say they share because it lets them feel close to people.

Why do we like posts on social media?

Facebook, with far more than 2 billion active users a month, is a perfect example of a website that people enjoy. In fact, since Facebook introduced the “Like” feature, it has been used more than 1.13 trillion times, with that figure increasing by the day. We do this because we want to have a friendship. Even the Instagram profile picture is kind of a big deal, even though it’s something most people don’t see at full size. If we prefer and enjoy each other’s messages, we bring meaning to the relationship and strengthen that closeness. We are also generating a reciprocal effect.

We feel compelled to give back to the people who gave us, if in a small way. We’re trying to even up the scales.

A social scientist sent Christmas cards to 600 random aliens and got 200 in exchange. This is the force of reciprocity. You will also find reciprocity on Instagram, where getting a tag or a direct message makes you feel obligated to give one back. And if you get a like on your page, you’ll definitely feel a little bit of a tug to reciprocate in some way, whether it’s by posting anything in exchange, signing up for an email list, etc.

Why we’re commenting on social media?

Most advertisers tend to believe that interactions with consumers are highly significant. The commitment—to engage as much as possible—is what creates long-term activism. It’s shocking, then to find that consumers don’t feel the same way. A poll of more than 7,000 customers showed that just 23 percent said they had a relationship with a company. Among those who did, just 13 percent listed repeated encounters with the brand as a justification for a friendship.

Consumers have said mutual beliefs are a much greater factor of a friendship than a lot of engagement with a company. This is not to suggest that the comments are not powerful. In truth, they may be extremely so—there’s a concept known as a social reality that teaches us that our whole perception of something is influenced by when and how we share it with others.

Biology and social media: dopamine and oxytocin

The pull of social media addiction isn’t just in our brains. It’s very possible, thanks to two chemicals created by our brains: dopamine and oxytocin. Scientists used to believe that dopamine was a reward compound in the brain, but now we know what it really does.

Dopamine is what allows us to want, dream, and search. It’s is activated by unpredictability, tiny bits of information, and rewards—more or less the same conditions of social media. Dopamine pull is so intense that tests have found that tweeting is harder for people to stop than cigarettes and alcohol.

And that’s how Instagram impacts us without us realizing it – so keep your eyes opened.