The harm of social media validation: A question of responsibility and protecting the vulnerable

https://www.marketingtechnews.net/news/2019/apr/18 | April 18, 2019

The harm of social media validation: A question of responsibility and protecting the vulnerable
Humans have an innate desire to be liked by peers and to feel a sense of belonging — and nowhere is this more prevalent than social media. The more likes, comments, and shares a post gets, the more socially validated the poster feels. In fact, studies show that just these online reactions release dopamine in our brains, which makes us feel happy. Like gamblers at a slot machine, we anticipate a certain response when posting something online: Who will like my photo? Will it attract more likes than my last post or my friend’s post? Not surprisingly, social media platforms know all about this and find ways to keep us (and advertisers) coming back for more. While it’s good for revenue — after all, marketers are willing to hand over more money if they know their ads will be seen — social validation and its addictive nature are detrimental to both adults and kids. When I was young, I would be disappointed if friends didn’t laugh at my jokes. Luckily, it wasn’t hard to move on from that. But now, rather than feeling pressure to be the funniest kid in class, there’s pressure to be the funniest (or coolest, or most attractive) kid on the internet. For young users especially, competing with classmates for likes and comments may actually lead to depression and anxiety, as these elements of social validation are sometimes prioritised over real friendships.

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