The Psychology of Social Media: Why We Tweet and Who Doesn’t

As of 2013, Facebook claims to have over 1 billion active users. Nearly 30 percent of 18 to 34-year olds check social media before they even get out of bed. Should everyone be worried? While psychological research on social media is still in its early stages, many doctors and researchers feel that it speaks to humanity’s most basic needs – to feel loved, noticed, and important in the world. What they worry about most is the overwhelming amount of information the average person is willing to share with the world, or that the world can now discover anyway. You’ve heard the complaints. People post every mundane detail of their life on Twitter. They post pictures of their food on Instagram. They get in trouble for gossiping or oversharing. Why is it so easy to get addicted? And why do some people abstain?

Is it About Dating?

A study from Stanford University found that single people tended to list more information on their profiles than married ones. In essence, they use social media to convey the most details about themselves possible to potential mates. Consider the huge success of online dating sites. The most recent statistics say 17 percent of all marriages begin as online dating matches, and that number is significantly rising. But how much of this is about the disintegration of social interaction in a face-to-face setting? The internet can inspire confidence in shy people or anybody who lacks the social skills or confidence to meet people in bars. It can also be a breeding ground for lies, scams, and random cruelty. It has been scientifically proven that simply the possibility of falling in love online alleviates feelings of isolation and depression for many people. But these connections ultimately begin on a very superficial level. The couples who succeed are the ones who make it work in person.

Being Shy Online

It might not be shocking that shy people tend to spend more time on social media sites. But you may be surprised that they also tend to have fewer friends and followers. Despite social media being touted as a way to bring introverted people out of their shell, the psychological profiles most people stick to since childhood tend to translate online as well. But that doesn’t mean social media can’t be a positive tool to overcome social barriers for many people, and more therapists are embracing it as a tool to help build confidence in their clients. While shy people may still trail behind in popularity, they do report building closer friendships and finding it easier to engage in conversations. It can be enormously helpful for extremely anxious and shy children who have a critical need for interaction that they can’t always get at school.

Why Narcissism is Still Bad

Everyone is slightly narcissistic, even people who deny it, and social media has a way of validating those qualities. Even people who would have never considered putting important parts of their life on display before can be drawn to the social media atmosphere – the idea that this is now okay, and this is the social norm. The statistics of Facebook and Twitter users are staggering, but 44 percent of Americans still don’t have profiles. Many of them are simply unfamiliar with the sites and unwilling to learn the ins and outs, but many others are simply opposed to losing their privacy or genuinely don’t understand how their life could generate interest. The disparity between people who embrace social media and those who avoid it is a fascinating area for further study.

Technology’s powerful effect on the world is not limited to merely business and science. It’s also changing how people interact, for better or for worse. The study of social media psychology is an interesting look into the human psyche and how no matter what kind of digital age descends, basic needs and desires will always stay pretty much the same.


About the Author
Brett Harris is a published psychologist and blogger. A career in this field could be possible by checking out the Top 10 Best Online Masters in Psychology Degree Programs.

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