Our Brain on Social Media

Think Twice before you next mindlessly scroll through Facebook or Instagram

Image for post
Image for post

Have you ever found yourself mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, watching video after video to a point where it actually becomes tiring? This seemingly harmless action of watching cat videos, memes and other great wonders of social media can be much more dangerous than you think.

Social media sites are built to keep you hooked. They have a clever algorithm called a reccomender system, which can figure out your interests after a simple click on a video or follow of a profile. As a result, these sites and apps are able to bombard you with videos and content which are very hard to say “no” to. You could say the algorithm is more to blame than the social media sites themselves.

But how does spending chunks of our time on social media, YouTube and other recreational apps effect us? As well as wasting wasting our golden time here are some of the most profound metal drawbacks of spending excessive time on social media:

1. Significantly shortened attention span:

Often the videos you watch on social media are less than 5 minutes. We determine in the first few seconds of watching the video whether it is worth our attention and if not we scroll to the next one, watch a few seconds, “nope not interesting, next one” and the cycle continues until we finally arrive to a video worth watching. This behaviour of constantly searching for a video, or person to suffice our craving for pleasure creates an unhealthy habit which translates into the real world. What do i mean by this?

Image for post
Image for post

When someone is telling us a story, if we don’t find it interesting within the first few seconds our brains almost “switch off” and we seek for something else. Often we find ourselves “butting in” saying something like — “oh i heard you went to so and so’s house, or have you seen such and such” which is completely irrelevant to the conversation and can often hurt the person’s feelings without us knowing. Why do we do this? Simple, we have trained and conditioned our brain on social media sites and the like for when a situation or conversation is not to our liking we seek for something else, something which can give us more pleasure. This essentially is what a short attention span is.

2. Decrease in memory:

Imagine your memory as a space which we fill up every day with mass amounts of information. When we are watching T.V., studying, working or even taking a stroll down the park our brain is consonantly processing a huge amount of information. To recall information our brain has to work through all this information, almost like a maze, to retrieve what we want to remember. The more information we fill our brain the more complex this maze becomes and therefore makes it harder for our brain to retrieve what we want.

Image for post
Image for post

Social media is a ginormous information hub and therefore the number one tool of making our maze as complex as possible. When we scroll down Instagram, Facebook and other social media feeds for prolonged periods of time a huge amount of information is being inputted and processed in our brains.

Without you even knowing it: the small words on the side of your screen, the ads, the audio, the video, the pictures, the messages and even the colour of each pixel on our phone screen is picked up by our brain. This adds more and more clutter , almost like a pile of clothes piling up, and when its time to retrieve that shirt (memory) in the middle of the pile, it becomes very difficult to and hence the decrease in memory is realised. “Strange analogy i know, but i hope it makes your remember”

3. Decreased motivation:

Social media such as Facebook and Instagram, provides us with a constant stream of entertaining videos, messages from friends, events, news and much more. All of these once read or watched gives us a nice healthy hit of dopamine or pleasure and we feel good. Often, there is nothing wrong with this, but the issue here lies with the fact that social media such as Facebook and Instagram often combine all of these entertaining features and implement algorithms to match our interests to almost create a haven of enjoyably things. To access this haven? A simple tap on the app or click on a website. We ask ourselves why peruse something difficult to seek pleasure when pleasure exists just a tap or click away? This line of questioning exists in the back of our minds, since humans are geared towards survival we avoid pain and seek pleasure, resulting in a lack of motivation to do anything productive.

Image for post
Image for post

Social media and other much higher dopamine releasing activities such as: drugs or watching porn detriment motivation levels significantly more.


Although Social Media brings many benefits to humanity, it is important that we become aware of some of the harmful side-effects that come along with it.

I hope you found this read useful and that some of the analogies provided made these issues clear. I sincerely wish that you reconsider spending excessive time on Social media in the future.

Written by

Interested in Data Science? Consider giving me a follow for weekly lessons with video explanations.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store