Marketing and Mental Health: Why Are We Addicted To Social Media? | Hacker Noon

Social media has brought with it everything possible; the good, the great, the bad, and the ugly. Everything we do is now influenced in some way by social media. Jonathan Jadali is the CEO and founder of Ascend Agency, a leading American Digital Marketing Agency that caters to top brands and fortune 500 companies, utilizing the power of social media and the internet to increase company visibility and to multiply leads. He shares with us from his personal experience as a marketer and social media influencer.

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Annie Brown

Annie Brown is the founder of Lips, a creative sharing platform for women and the LGBTQ community.

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There is no denying that social media has changed our lives in a lot of ways. Social media has brought with it everything possible; the good, the great, the bad, and the ugly. 

Everything we do is now influenced in some way by social media; the way we communicate, the way we consume information about current events, and even how we spend our free time. While there are many benefits associated with using these platforms every day (like staying connected to friends across distances ), it’s also easy to get caught up in a stream of never-ending notifications and pop-ups and to get so caught up that you miss out on reality. 

Jonathan Jadali is the CEO and founder of Ascend Agency, a leading American Digital Marketing Agency that caters to top brands and fortune 500 companies, utilizing the power of social media and the internet to increase company visibility and to multiply leads. In this article, Jonathan shares with us his personal experience as a marketer and social media influencer. 

“Social Media is by design created to demand attention and to compete with everything else for human attention,” Jonathan explains.

“This is why we have so much success as marketers, we are afforded an unreal number of eyeballs to market to if we do it right. From a purely business perspective, this is brilliant, but when we consider the psychological and social aspects, it becomes a bit more problematic, because Social Media also has the great power to change you and deplete self-confidence,” says Jonathan.

Jonathan’s point on self-confidence is critical because the human mind is designed to run on self-confidence and a sense of esteem. 

Social Media and Addiction: What Are the Causes?

Social media affects the brain by activating herd mentality. Social Media trends and influencers dictate what becomes popular, and this often tricks our brain into defining what is popular as beneficial. This grossly limits our ability to think for ourselves and to form our own opinions. It is hard to say if this is purely the fault of social media or just human wiring.  

Jonathan makes a valid point about not placing the blame squarely on Social media’s shoulders; 

“This desire to become popular or to align with what is popular is not different from what has always existed with celebrity culture. Influencers have existed since the inception of the creative and entertainment industries, and we have always had an affinity to them. The problem lies somewhere within the complex interaction between social media and the human brain.”

Jonathan further explains how this harmful interaction unfolds in the human brain and why marketers find so much success with social media. 

“The rate at which social media delivers content to us, how close it is to us and how frequently we engage in it, makes it a little bit more dangerous. The promise of popularity redefines relevance to the average user. Failure in this regard affects self-confidence while fuelling a resolve to try harder, this, in turn, fosters addiction to social media.”

“The urge to engage constantly with social media maximizes the conversion rates for ads and is largely responsible for the astounding success of influencer marketing over the last decade.” 

According to experts, social media addiction starts as a form of escapism from reality. This is quite tenable when you juxtapose the harsh realities that real-life poses viz-a-viz the relatively flashy, stress-free life portrayed on social media. The ability to escape reality reduces our willingness to engage with real life or to face its problems. Social media just may be killing off our will to fight, and this is alarming. 

The second reason for this social media addiction is one that Jonathan has personally experienced and one that he understands deeply; “Social media easily provides one of the core needs of humans; validation.”

“We are not as much addicted to social media as we are addicted to validation. Social media is just currently the easiest way to get it.” 

Social media addiction is not something to be scoffed at. Experts have revealed that the brain scans ofo heavy social media users are very similar to those who are addicted to drugs and porn. 

Social Media Ads And their Mental Health Impacts

Everything about ads is meant to be persuasive and convince the user to purchase or subscribe to some service or product. While there are apparent unethical marketing methods, a few may not fall into that category but are detrimental to mental health. 

Recently, Pinterest banned ads for body loss products. The platform explained their move as being influenced by mental health concerns. Pinterest has become one of the first social media platforms to take a stand against body negativity and its attendant mental health issues. 

The typical Pinterest user base is women between 25-32, and the platform recognized that this was a necessary step. Instagram’s user base is also similar. Perhaps it is time for them to join the fray as well. 

Ads use persuasive language, edited pictures, and well-crafted copies to sell to their audience, and this can sometimes lead people on a quest for things they do not need, further adding to the depression and suicidal tendencies that are already on the ascendancy. 

Then again, traditional ads have also followed the exact blueprint for ages, so the words of Jonathan come into play again, “We cannot put the blame squarely on social media.” However, that is not to say that we cannot ask them to take on more responsibility. 

Can We Have Safe Social Media For All?

“We are still learning the impacts of these things, they are still fairly new.” Jonathan explains with clear optimism. However, he does warn that all hands will have to be on deck if we are to change course,  “As we learn we must adapt from all ends. The users, the platforms, the influencers and the marketers all have a role to play in creating a safer space”

Adam Mosseni, the head of Instagram, recently explained their removal of “like counters” from Instagram posts as a move to “depressurize Instagram” and preserve mental health that arises from comparing likes on the platform.

This move has been criticized by influencers across the board but is at least a sign that Facebook is becoming sensitive towards the possible effects of using their platforms. 

Jonathan’s shared a proposed 4-prong approach towards safer Social Media with us. 

  • Platforms across the board should include a mental health check to posts and Ads. A department on mental health may be necessary for this evolution. Platforms should also encourage and incentivize wholesome content and promote the influencers who create this. 
  • Users should be educated and informed on using social media with a defined purpose. 
  • Influencers should become more conscientious in their use of the platform. They should integrate wholesome and balanced content and take full responsibility for the possible mental health effects of the products that they market. 
  • Marketers should promote ethical marketing; truthfulness, and non-exaggeration should become markers to measure success.

Thankfully, the mental health debate has taken a front-row seat in society. We can no longer ignore the dangerous effects social media has in increasing mental health issues like ADHD, depression, Suicidal tendencies, and Self-esteem issues. 

In Jonathan’s words, “The right steps are already being taken, there is certainly cause to hope.” 

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