What's With Our Obsession With Social Networking?


Facebook. Twitter. Reddit. Youtube. All websites that our society "abuses" on a second-to-second basis. Within a 10 minute walk through campus, I'd be willing to bet that half of the people you see are using social media one way or another. We've become so engulfed in using social media that a bulk of our free time and even work time involves the usage of social media. During lecture halls if you were to sit behind all of the students, you'd think you were at Facebook's headquarters. Society's obsession with this phenomenon is becoming increasingly evident and I think I know why.


First, I would like to clarify that I personally use Facebook and Twitter regularly (maybe too regularly) so I vouch for myself when I say that my assumptions are credible. So lets break it down, what is social networking? According to this source social networking is a social instrument of communication. Great, so it's a way that we can communicate with each other through the web. But wasn't something invented in the 70's to do just that? Oh yeah, e-mail. However, modern day society often prefers social media to communicate with one another as opposed to e-mail. And how could you blame us? Sites like Facebook and Twitter provide fresh, contemporary, and advanced ways of communicating. But our relentless obsession with social media has to be more than that.

My personal theory of solving this question primarily consists of simple observations. We as humans like to do what is in our best interest. It's simple behavioral economics. Social networking allows people to freely express themselves or even an alter-ego to the public, without facing any of the consequences. In real world situations we are always directly or indirectly pressured to abide by the norm. There is always that unwritten code of conduct to abide by in public settings. For example, it would be unusual and frowned upon to speak loudly and obnoxiously on a quiet bus. The more accepted behavior is to sit and be quiet. The objective is to avoid negative attention because negative attention often leads to shame and embarrassment, which is obviously not desirable. However, social media allows us to freely exhibit any and all feelings or expressions into a public environment without physically having to deal with the judgment, embarrassment, and/or degradation that we would in reality. It eliminates most if not all of the factors that coincide with the pressures of obeying with society's social guidelines. I've noticed a trend with people, me being one of them, utilizing social media as a tool to publicize how wonderful their lives are and outline the positive aspects of their lives. Facebook and Twitter provide the option to post statements, pictures, comments, invitations, etc in which people use to their boastful advantage.  It essentially allows people to rub in the public's face the image of, "I'm cool/cooler than you!" This indirect method of showing off gives people a sense of self-satisfaction. The benefits don't even stop there. Facebook allows people to "like" one anothers posts/pictures whereas Twitter allows people to "retweet" or "favorite" others tweets which all serve the same purpose of expressing agreement and approval. Even these features are used for personal benefit; those who provide positive feedback usually receive positive feedback. The combination of flaunting oneself and receiving positive feedback on said flaunting creates an ongoing cycle with the sole purpose of achieving self-satisfaction. Scientific research even proves that areas in the brain like the 'Prefrontal Pleasure Center' (PPC) secrete "happiness" chemicals when somebody is pleased or satisfied.     

I firmly believe that our obsession with social media is not only because of its power to communicate quickly and efficiently, but mostly because of something a bit more psychological. Have any of you noticed the same things that I did? I welcome all types of feedback


This blog is so true and so relevant to all college students. I have never thought of why i am addicted to checking my social medias. Your completely right, most of the time I go on one of the social media sites its to see who favorites or retweeted my tweet or who liked or commented on my latest Facebook picture. I never realized psychologically what was going on behind it. To me, its an ego boost that someone feels the same way you do or likes how you look in a picture. To prove this is has real prevalence someone should run an experiment to see if theres a correlation in confidence and usage of social media if you have more positive activity going on on these websites.

I think our obsession with social media is extremely psychological. I agree with Courtney that the social media boosts our egos. We feel rewarded when thinking about ourselves, but that feeling is magnified when we can share those thoughts with another person. This may explain, at least in part, the astonishing growth of social media platforms in the last ten years. I wonder if our fascination with social sites really has to do with the claim about communication as it is made out to be. I mean, most people have cell-phones that allow us to talk, text, and call each other (privately). I don’t think writing on someone’s wall or commenting on his or her status is really communication. I know a lot of people that instead of messaging their friends prefer to write on their wall so everyone can see their conversation. I think that has to do with humans being egocentric overall. We feel rewarded when we talk about ourselves and we feel good when people are paying attention to us (by reading our social lives, liking our status or re-tweeting). I looked into it and I found a study by Harvard that finds that talking about ourselves IS inherently rewarding. The hypothesis was: that humans are motivated to propagate the products of their minds, opportunities to disclose one’s thoughts is a powerful form of subjective reward. The study is very interesting and I recommend it especially since it's so pertinent to us social media lovers.

Social media is most definitely the most accessible way to show everyone how great your life is. I agree with everything you said. I think young kids use facebook and twitter more for personal satisfaction and public attention than they do to actually communicate. I rarely write on my friend's walls anymore but I "mupload" pictures every day/night. I admit I facebook stalk and I am sure most everyone on social media is guilty of too. Facebook and twitter have also contributed to bullying, fighting, etc. virtually so the ones involved don't actually have to face the consequences. How many times have you seen a fight or threat on facebook that never actually took place other than typing on a computer. I am addicted to social media just like everyone else, it gives me something to do on my way to class, in class, and pretty much any other time of the day. Now that it is available on smart phones its even worse. I wonder what the next social media site will be...

I admire your inclusion of psychological principles in order to accurately and concisely explain the social media phenomena. like you said, people are trying to behave in the "norm" fashion and also these social media applications have a particular design and layout which create enjoyment and efficiency for the user. these two aspects are the reason why it is so popular among culture. I wonder if these social media sites would reduce the amount of features, then it would become less popular.

Leave a comment

Subscribe to receive notifications of follow up comments via email.
We are processing your request. If you don't see any confirmation within 30 seconds, please reload your page.

Search This Blog

Full Text  Tag

Recent Entries

Everyone has heard of them as being the best car out there, mainly cause of gas prices. Hybrids are sweeping…
People everywhere are breaking up, just in time for the holidays. And the more couples I see parting ways, the…
Pregnancy Tests
While browsing Andrew's blog and looking to see all of the posts that I missed (I'm pretty sure I haven't…

Old Contributions