The Psychology Of Likes: How Social Media Influences The Brain |

The psychology of likes: how social media influences the brain

likes on social media


Have you ever posted something on social media, to then check likes later? Before you scan your social feeds, do you experience a slight psychological rush?

Likes on social media are addictive and, like consuming chemical drugs, they affect your brain. They symbolize a popularity boost, allowing you to compare yourself to your peers continuously. There is a very clear explanation why it feels so amazing on social media. This gives us a high, a true physiological high, and that is essentially why we keep going back to it.

A recent study reported that when we see our content being liked, the same brain circuits triggered by eating chocolate and winning money are also turned on. Seeing likes on the post of a stranger made study participants more likely to interact with it, in a ‘follow the crowd’ attitude. This is becoming a vicious cycle.

How are likes perceived?

“Likes” and alerts from social media are two tools that engage the brain on social media sites. Research has found that these engagements are social rewards. This positive input shares qualities with social incentives, the positive feeling a person has when they donate to charity. Both liked and wanted are incentives, and the brain helps mediate these two mechanisms. A dopamine loop between the two is created by this process. Psychological “wanting” tends to produce addiction and can never feel fully fulfilled by seekers.

Why do we want to be liked?

We share our thoughts and interests because we want to stay linked with the people we care for. We want to give others an idea of who we are and feel good when our friends and followers like our posts. The more we like it the more we like dopamine, the better we feel. In January 2017, The New Statesman published an essay on the likes of social media. One quote stands out tellingly: “Likes are always an indicator of social standing, at my age,” says an anonymous 17-year-old survey respondent. “As someone who gets anxious and occasionally struggles with self-esteem, the amount of Likes on my posts can be both hugely uplifting or depressing.”

Why likes are good for business?

On a personal level, knowing the power of likes is different from scoring likes as a company. Likes are great for brand recognition, but unless you do something very special and innovative, do not expect them to turn into sales leaps. Social Media for business is a long-term game. It is not the best marketing strategy to launch a new page and expect sales to start. In addition, social media should be matched with the wider marketing policies.

In conclusion 

You open yourself or your organization up to judgment by posting a photo or message on social media. You find yourself open to others’ thoughts. As individuals and corporations alike, we seek our peers’ approval. All hums when we get approval. All including corporations, gets a little hit with dopamine. That is why we want to go back for more and the reason social media will soon not be going anywhere. However, what steps social media sites can take to either promote or prevent the dopamine-seeking loop.

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