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The Science Behind Social Media’s Effect

It’s 2022 so social media is nothing new for any of us, whether you engage in it or not. While social media may have no effect on some people, social media has a wild effect on others and sometimes this effect can be the same just for a moment for those who do not spend much time on social media. I know we all heard the same old phrases told by older people such as “social media creates mental health problems,” or even by professionals, but they aren’t wrong. Of course mental health problems don’t derive just from social media but social media might be a reason for many of us and we don’t even realize it. A lot of the time, once we know the basic science behind certain behavior, it allows us to alter some of our decision for better effects that help us in the long-run.

As we all heard, serotonin is a brain chemical that boosts our mood. Just like serotonin, dopamine is another brain chemical that causes a boost of mood. Dopamine comes from “rewarding feelings” that then come from behaviors such as consuming sweets, consuming drugs, playing video games, and finally, social media. Dopamine from social media comes from very short-term experiences and in this case, dopamine comes from short and fast posts. For example, when we spend more than 15 minutes on social media in one sitting, our brain has become programmed to put our attention on one post for less than a minute which can be detrimental. When we put our phone down, our brain releases dynorphin which is a chemical that causes pain and stress due to a lack of dopamine (which was created by social media), causing us to pick up our phone again which is where an addiction starts. Not only that, but it is because of dynorphins that we experience low motivation after spending time on social media which is why we constantly want to spend time on the media rather than completing our tasks. Essentially, dopamine overstimulates us therefore making social media our main source of happiness or entertainment which causes a lack of attention in other activities.

Now that we have some insight on our brain’s chemicals when consuming constant social media or social media for long periods of times, we can change some of our habits. To decrease this overstimulation caused by dopamine, we can reduce our time on social media. One of the main ways to avoid this overstimulation is to avoid social media for the first hour after waking up. If you do go straight to social media after waking up, a limit of 15 minutes definitely helps avoid this overstimulation but make it no longer than the limit. This 15 minute rule doesn’t apply just when you wake up but at any point throughout the day. There are plenty of more rules or practices you can use to limit your time on social media, but remember the point isn’t to limit your time on social media, the point is to limit a lack of motivation, low moods, and any possible mental health issues. The rules you choose to use depend on what works best in your life and what makes you happier, just remember to take care of yourself throughout the process.

Source: McLeanHospital

-Ximena Barrios

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