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The Brain and Social Media

Social media is a topic that mostly old people like to talk about to nag the younger generations to make us feel like they are way superior to us in any social interaction. However, in this article I’m not going to talk about what social media has done to our generation but more about what morals effects social media has on us, as individuals.

Social media is like a drug, its effect on the brain is similar to that of alcoholism and gambling, it makes us feel good for a while and when it leaves we want more. It slowly builds a strong addiction, and since social media is free, we use it without considering the time we spend on it, and we often can’t see the damages that it is doing to our life. It builds up unnoticed and controls us from deep within. We need more friends on Facebook, more likes on Instagram, we post more stories on Snapchat, while all of this certainly might feel good the moment we do it, it doesn't last much longer than just that, a second, or a day. Like most drugs, once the addiction is developed, it is tough to destroy, and it continues to ruin and deteriorate the quality of our life. How many times have you been at a dinner in which half of the people are looking at their phones? How many hours have you spent scrolling on Facebook without any real purpose?

Social media feels great in the moment, but it does not last for long. Every time we use it, the human brain releases dopamine, the most addictive substance it can produce. It makes us feel pleased, and we develop an active addiction to it shortly after birth. Dopamine is helpful when doing the small things in life like actually starting to study for an exam, or buying a book to read, going outside to go for a run. All little things but they don’t mean much on their own and aren’t worth anything if you don’t achieve a final goal. Something that you worked very hard for. This is the role of dopamine; it keeps us from abandoning our long-term goals. So dopamine has been rewarding you for keeping up these small actions until you reach your goal, and when it is finally achieved, you don’t get dopamine, but serotonin. Although serotonin makes you feel happy, it might not feel as high as the shot of dopamine you would get from opening Facebook, but it lasts a lot longer, you feel comfortable about who you are, you grow confident, you enjoy life.

Dopamine is an important substance that allows us to complete the small, repetitive, and often dull acts in life; it helps keep us motivated. Social media overrides this effect; it gives us so much dopamine for such little effort that all of the other things we do which are essential for us to live a fulfilling life, don’t make us feel as good anymore. They lose their value, and while in the end, they provide immense pleasure and lasting fulfilment once we get to our final goal, in between we have no incentive to continue. And so we start to drop the things in favour of the net and the likes. Things that take a little bit longer, a bit more effort, things that take weeks, months and even years to complete, like forming stable and healthy relationships, learning to play an instrument, working hard on a personal project.

Nowadays, more people than ever say that they have problems finding meaning to life, finding a purpose. Unlike our previous generations, we don’t have a great war to fight to defend our country, or long working days to feed the people of our village. We have no given purpose when we are born. And so the fight for our modern society is one of Man against himself. We don’t find a meaning to our lives, not because there isn't one but because we have no incentive to find one. No dopamine to reward those small actions that make a big difference in the end, therefore, no serotonin to make people feel accomplished and proud. And so we continue to live every day, without much idea of where we are heading, what our goals are, how we can achieve them, or find any reason to achieve them.