In recent years, online social platforms have become essential to our everyday life. It is hard to imagine a person in 2020 who is not aware of the existence of these networks. They have completely transformed the way people communicate, make a living, and learn new information.
Instagram has superseded family albums, Twitter works as a personal diary, and YouTube can serve as the tool for self-realization. Social media-based small businesses experience much faster and bigger profits than ever before and can compete with established brands.
What is the recipe for the success we are witnessing online? How have the media created hooks that grabbed onto the majority of the planet’s population? This question has quite a simple answer: people love expressing themselves and receiving feedback to grow their self-esteem. Interestingly, the number of likes a person receives tends to correlate with their feeling of self-worth. Social platforms allow you to share your experience and opinions on anything and everything, directly to anyone and everyone you want to reach. Just as importantly, they allow you to receive instant feedback on your thoughts through the simple yet elegant and effective tool that is the “like” button.
People who are able to gross more likes are likely to become influencers. In that role, they can represent the voice of a certain group and gather strong communities online. Basically, that is how popularity works in the twenty-first century.
SO WHY DO PEOPLE USE SOCIAL MEDIA?
Social platforms have become a universal tool for making your voice sound louder and your personality shine brighter. In general, people use social networks to:
● Share and receive information they regard valuable or products that proved valuable to them
● Feel involved in global matters
● Keep in touch with family and friends
● Create and develop their public image
● Demonstrate their beliefs, social positions, and relationship status
● Get a sense of fulfillment by receiving instant feedback (likes, comments, etc.)
WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT LIKES?
Unlike commenting options, likes are a much more interesting and suitable way to express our opinions in the modern world. We live in an enormous swirl of different information within an endless variety of topics. Likes represent the way of living that is relevant for most of us now—a fast, along-the-way reaction to the loads of things happening around us. They are now a universal symbol of support of one’s social position and convictions.
Thus, the main goal of any user on any social platform is to gather as many likes as possible to make the network algorithms work. Simply put, more likes equals faster and more productive spread of a persona. The same goes for businesses too.
In this pursuit of higher ratings, many people are also using boosters for their account. The most common example would be the paid services for automatic likes on Instagram or Facebook. They provide the opportunity to increase your popularity more quickly.
WHY ARE LIKES SO ADDICTIVE?
In the modern world, grossing likes has become a sort of drug. That is because it activates a boost of the hormone called dopamine, which you also get from eating chocolate or winning a lottery. Just like fast food, being popular online creates a cycle of reward which makes you crave more. A famous study investigated the impact of social media on users’ brains; among other conclusions, it showed that when people see a post with a large number of likes, they engage more with it, even if it is published by a complete stranger. This effect is usually called “follow the crowd logic.”
HOW ARE LIKES AFFECTING INDIVIDUALS?
Getting a big number of likes boosts self-esteem and is a benchmark for achievement. We become proud of ourselves, because the likes we achieve are equal to social approval. This feeling is very addictive, and sometimes people get really carried away with it.
The simplicity of sharing our lives with strangers is erasing the borders of intimacy. People not only share good parts of their lives but sad ones as well. It may create a negative reaction, but it may also have a useful effect: Sometimes sharing a bad experience can help others with similar experiences cope. Other users, though they may be strangers, can show their support and provide comfort. By pressing the “like” button, people can reach out to each other.
GREAT NUMBERS EQUALS GREAT RESPONSIBILITY
The impact of social media is huge, and besides the positive feelings of self-fulfillment and high self-esteem, it also creates and enhances serious negative phenomenons.
● Cyberbullying and hatred. The Internet is not always a safe space, especially for young adults and children. Your personal information made public may be mocked or underestimated, or even used for threats or provocation. People can be much more rude and cruel online than in real life because they feel anonymous and free of moral stoppers. Cyberbullying can lead to dire consequences.
● Fakes and lies. Social platforms provide a wide and fast circulation of information. It is a great advantage and disadvantage at the same time. Social media serves the good for different events or urgent situations, but it spreads misinformation and panic as well. Any unreliable information can quickly transform into widely approved belief, so one must always check the sources behind newly circulating information.
● Cybercrime. The rate of cybercrime, like identity theft, stalking, and misuse of personal information, has severely increased due to users’ carelessness as regards their privacy. Many people realize that they have shared something that should not be public when it is too late. Also, terrorist organizations are using social media for propaganda purposes and recruiting new members.
● Degradation and fear of real-life communication. With the growth of online dating and communication, some have started avoiding real-life contact. Humans tend toward laziness, and the possibility of keeping in touch with everyone without as much effort is appealing. As a result, more and more people are ending up lonely and depressed instead of having an actual social life.
● Low productivity. Many corporations block access to social networking sites because they cause employees to get distracted from their work. We lose track of time when scrolling our newsfeeds.
● Exaggerated dependence on other people’s opinions and crooked terms of perfection. As mentioned above, a big number of likes is equal to society’s approval. Self-concept is now more affected by comparison based on the physical or social attributes of other people. This fact makes many of us, especially young adults, engage in pursuit after the illusion of perfection. They try to correspond to social demands, which can never be completely objective because everyone is different and has their own idea of ideal appearance, behavior, and everything else. Failing to fulfill the requirements set by popular influencers leads to low self-esteem, anxiety, and in severe cases, to mental and physical disorders like anorexia or self-harm.
In the modern world we cannot ignore the impact of social media on our lives. The growth of social platforms is changing the lifestyle of the whole planet.
Obsession with likes is not a serious disease of a particular nation. Technology and its development is not a problem. The wish to nurture your self-esteem and cope with anxiety by getting more likes is not a problem. The problem is that people get carried away and start replacing real-life achievements with the virtual illusion of self-worth.
In order to break the addiction to likes, all society should work on it. The balance between virtual and real-life has to be reviewed and promoted via social platforms for the health of our future as human beings.