By Lindsay Cowdin
According to Pew Research, 71% of Facebook users and 59% of Instagram users report that they visit their social media site once to several times per day (Atske & Anderson, 2022). Clearly, social media has become central to many of our lives, but is this a good thing?
According to Dar Meshi, a research professor at Michigan State University, we are compelled by social media because we have evolved to find social connections rewarding (Gupta, 2022).
Therefore, this technology provides us with a new way to experience social rewards, such as support and connections (Gupta, 2022). For instance, being active on social media allows us to
connect with many people we may have otherwise lost contact with. This can help decrease feelings of loneliness, which studies have found is highly detrimental to our mental and physical
health (CDC, 2021).
Additionally, we can receive social support by receiving “likes” and
comments on our posts. Receiving compliments and support from others has been found to activate the reward center of our brain, which creates feelings of pleasure, reward, and energy (Gupta, 2022).
Despite these benefits, there are a few dangers of social media that users should be aware of. For instance, Professor Dar Meshi found that social comparisons are a large driver of social media
use (Gupta, 2022). According to social comparison theory, we compare ourselves to others in domains such as attractiveness, success, wealth, popularity, and more to determine our worth (Psychology Today, n.d.). These comparisons are linked to poor mental health, such as
depression, anxiety, and lower life satisfaction (Gupta, 2022).
Unfortunately, social media provides us with a way to compare ourselves to a large number of people (Gupta, 2022). Additionally, people typically only post the best parts of themselves and their lives. Therefore,
social media may be setting us up for unfair comparisons on a large scale. Social media can also lead to problematic social media use, which resembles an addiction (Gupta, 2022). This can result in preoccupation (i.e., constantly thinking about social media), mood modification (i.e.,
going onto social media to change your mood), tolerance (i.e., needing more and more social media to feel its rewards), conflict (i.e., social media causing problems in your personal and work life), withdrawal (i.e., experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit social media
use) and relapse (i.e., relapsing when trying to quit social media use) (Gupta, 2022).
How can we use social media in a way that allows us to enjoy the benefits while avoiding the dangers? According to Professor Dar Meshi, those who use social media excessively and passively (i.e., overly scrolling through social media without making posts) experience the most psychological distress (Gupta, 2022). However, those who use it in moderation and actively (i.e., making posts periodically while avoiding excessive scrolling) receive the most benefits (Gupta,2022).
Therefore, we do not need to avoid social media altogether to avoid its dangers. Instead, we can moderate our use, become active users, and recognize the risk of unfair social comparisons. By doing so, we can more fully enjoy the social connections and support that social
media can provide to our lives.
Atske, S., Anderson, M. (2022, May 11). Social Media Use in 2021. Retrieved January 26, 2023,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, April 29). Loneliness and Social Isolation
Linked to Serious Health Conditions. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from
Gupta, S., (Host). (2022, May 11). Social Media and our Brains with CNN’s Chasing Life [Audio
podcast episode]. In The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos. Pushkin Industries.
Psychology Today. (n.d.). Social Comparison Theory. Sussex Publishers. Retrieved January 26,
2023, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/social-comparison-theory