The ‘Like’ Phenomenon

Sophie Beriault, Staff Reporter

Teenagers are no strangers to the ‘dangers’ of social media that our parents and other adult figures alike constantly remind us of, but something that’s often overlooked is the science behind why adolescents are so involved online. What makes us so inclined to get likes, favorites and retweets?

In a study published in Psychological Science, a team of researchers looked into the impact of social media popularity. The teenagers were shown photos with various amounts of likes, some they submitted and some others had submitted.

According to the results, the same part of the brain that is amplified when eating chocolate or winning money was activated when the teenagers saw the greater number of likes on their own photos as well as their peers photos.

“Teens react differently to information when they believe it has been endorsed by many or few of their peers, even if these peers are strangers,” said Lauren Sherman, lead researcher in the project.

When teenagers get likes on their photo, status, etc, it’s a positive experience that fuels the need for more. Getting that treasured 11 likes on Instagram or a retweet on Twitter is positive affirmation that no one can deny feels great.

“Unfortunately, yes. If I don’t get a ton of likes I do kind of feel like people don’t like me,” said Jessica McIver, junior.

Of course, this can also be seen as yet another negative aspect of social media. Receiving positive feedback from others with likes or favorites is rewarding, but there’s the opposite reaction as well. When a photo or a status or a video isn’t as well received as one would hope, self-esteem can easily get damaged.

“I definitely think it’s a negative thing. I shouldn’t let social media have such a big influence on me…it’s addicting,” said McIver.

Wanting positive feedback from peers isn’t abnormal. Neither is feeling good when your post gets a lot of likes. Social media isn’t a problem until it becomes a main priority or an obsession in your life. The average teenager spends more than one third of their day on social media alone. So post a photo, revel in the likes coming in, and then log off. You’ll be much better for it.