Over 5 billion people worldwide have a mobile device and since we are in a digital age, people are spending more time on their screens than ever before. 3.96 billion people use social media around the world and the average person spends about 2 hours and 24 minutes a day scrolling on social media sites. Social media is not really accessed a lot on desktops, it is well adapted to our mobile devices and it is very easy and convenient to access all kinds of information at our fingertips. There is some psychology behind society’s excessive use of social media and mobile devices and this article will explore the truth behind it.
We want to be validated
Social media platforms can be very addictive because they can provide users with recognition and validation. We have become dependent on the dopamine rush we receive when we get a “like” notification from a selfie we posted on social media. People are in a constant state of despair trying to get more followers and become more influential. For example, Instagram is the place for influencers. Influencers are people who have built a reputation based on their knowledge or are famous simply because they are scandalous. They basically live for their followers, and smaller accounts often use growth services online to get followers on Instagram. They are also known for being very communicative and engaging with their followers. Swiss psychiatrist Eric Berne came up with the theory of “strokes” which he defines as a fundamental part of social action. Berne explains that both children and adults need “strokes”. Children might need physical strokes while adults require engagement which can be verbal, digital, or physical. Strokes can be negative or positive and Berne explains that even negative strokes are better than not receiving recognition at all. We also live in a time where people are constantly busy and now that the world is under a harsh climate with lockdown regulations due to the pandemic, people do not see their family and friends as often as before. Social media provides a platform for people to keep in touch with their loved ones which fuel our desire to constantly be online.
We’re looking for comfort
There is a theory that exists that links our social media dependency to our desire for comfort. Child psychologist D.W Winnicott introduced the theory of the transitional concept which allows a child to shift from their original and narcissistic view of the world where one cannot see beyond him or herself and the transitional object which becomes the child’s focus and allows the child to develop awareness for self and others while at the same time providing a source of comfort and security. Over time the child loses attachment to the transitional object by becoming independent however later in life other objects may be used to fulfill the role because the need for emotional investment is still there. It is believed that the mobile phone can play the role of the transitional object and provide users with a sense of familiarity and comfort in unfamiliar settings such as when you are sitting at a bar waiting for a friend for example. Our mobile phones act as an escape from reality giving users a temporary relief.
We fear missing out
Social media provides a platform for people to stay in touch with the people in their lives that they do not see often and because social media is such an open space, we can catch a glimpse into every single event that is happening around the world with ease. These reasons can be attributed to our fear of not being connected via social media and our mobile devices. There is a sense of belonging and community that is created by social media and our Fear of missing out or FOMO, makes it hard
for us to disengage. Jyri Engestrom, an internet entrepreneur, says that people on social media do not only connect to other people but also a shared object that inspires conversation. This can be a youtube video or a particular photo on Instagram that gets users to engage.
Social media and smartphones are fun and an important part of our everyday lives but there is a massive potential to become addicted to these things. Whether you just scroll other people’s profiles or you try to start a business and gain more followers, social media provides that connection with people we all crave for. Human beings are constantly looking for comfort, we want to be validated and we have a strong fear of being left out which is translating to people forming an unhealthy dependency on their phones and social media.