Psychology: How Instagram rewards our brain


An Insta-Star is in therapy. A researcher shows for the first Time, what happens in our brain at a Like. And a Professor has a Vision that would make today’s Social Media world on its head.

Instagram activates the reward center in the brain – whether these two women will be able to upload their photos directly?

The Berliner Victoria van Violence follow on instagram almost 200,000 people. You can see beautiful photos of her on the beach, at Festivals, at home with your dog.

But in addition to the photos with the most Likes texts that don’t fit into the perfect Instawelt often: “everyone has a fucking time, we don’t just talk,” she writes: “Negative feelings, failures, separations, loss of job, etc. are imperfections in our society. You do not fit well into the picture, neither in Real Life nor here. But it is quite normal.”

The Influencerin called with real name Victoria Miller, still goes regularly to psychotherapy, because they had to overcome a few years ago, a Depression. “A constant high level of stress, can’t switch off, always have to deliver a Burnout in many Professions,” she says.

But on Instagram there is the constant and direct comparison with other, not only in Followers and the Like. “Others have, the cooler the cooperation, the better life, in all sorts of areas, you can do worse,” says van Violence.

More: Instagram instead of Facebook – for young people a clear thing

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Fake art: Digital, we are all beautiful!

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Fake art: Digital, we are all beautiful!

Perfect World

“In the past, I’ve made more model jobs, and the professional images shared, but I realized, I have no more buck only in this perfect world,” she says, “I don’t want to go to events and wonder if people think: ‘Oh, the looks but not like in your photos’.”

You speak in your Posts for a long time now, more and more serious topics such as climate protection, hate on the net and mental health. Now, she is on events.

When your followers the good to come. However, the majority of Instagram remains to be a perfect world. With not always real pictures. The staged scenes, Photoshop and Schöheits operations belong to the world of the Influencer and the user. More than 500 million people use the platform every day.

If the reward center lights up

The equivalent of the population of the EU. Why we are fascinated by this platform? What happens in our brain when we use them?

“We are social beings,” says Dar Meshi, a neuroscientist at the University of Michigan State. Already in the stone age it was easier to survive in the group to get resources and reproduce.

He’s among people who use Social Media studied at the Free University of Berlin for the first Time in the world, with a MRI. The brain scanner showed which regions of the brain when Posting, Liking, and Yet be active. A Like is blinking, it blinks in the reward center called the ventral Striatum. This is otherwise eating, Drinking, Sex, and money actively or drug use.

In the social networks, it is easy to enable these small social rewards. Around the clock we can connect with hundreds or thousands of people and not have to get up once again.

Of Addiction Meshi don’t want to speak for him the word is too strong. There was still no one to because of too great a dependence on Social Media to the custody of his children has been withdrawn as in the case of heroin addicts, he says.

But he cites studies and cases in which people were sleeping worse, poorer school grades were, or even lost her Job because she couldn’t separate long enough from your social media. Meshi found out in a study that people who take more risks, seeking both a higher probability of drug as well as a higher likelihood of dependence on Social media.

More: media researcher Appel: “narcissism and Social Media in a self-reinforcing spiral”

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Like it – but why?

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Like it – but why?

Active users are more satisfied than passive

In two other studies, researchers asked their subjects several times a day via SMS whether they would have used in the last five minutes of Facebook and how they felt. If they had used Facebook, they felt worse. Whether this depends only on the fact that they had to reflect in front of researchers, their behavior, could not say the researchers.

What they found however – the Users were more active, more posted and more Likes were given, were generally better than the passive users. This, the researchers suspected would collect real life constant with the perfectly depicted the life of the other to compare non-self Likes to, because you posted nothing. But it could also be that the people who are already in a bad mood, generally speaking, less items.

The Dopamine Myth

A messenger substance in the brain, often associated with Social media, is dopamine. Experiments with money showed that it is already distributed when one hopes only on success. Thus, researchers explain why it depends always more on the slot machines – or why you look again and again on his App.

Researchers Meshi can confirm that dopamine and the use of Social Media contexts. But he also believed that the hope for a activation of the reward center Social Media makes it so attractive.

Our reward center is not activated, only if we get Likes. It is also active when we like other images, or just our curiosity to pursue what will make our friends. Meshi explains to us our Status in the group is very important and we want to be liked by others.

In comparison

Media ethics Professor Petra Grimm wonders whether the urge is due to compare innate or culturally. On platforms such as Instagram, we constantly compare ourselves. “It is problematic if the comparison to the devaluation or Superiority is marked,” she says.

Permanent can Compare to find out young people deter you from who you are. “If I follow Influencers to get my bearings to you, such as what clothes I wear, what I consume and how I should live, and at the same time trying to present myself as unique, I can concentrate hard on what are my own desires.”

More: Whatsapp, Instagram and co.: Social media put children under pressure

A new Vision of the Social Media world

But who should bear the responsibility for the mental health of the users on the platforms? The platforms themselves are interested in keeping the user for as long as possible on the Smartphone and make money from them. You can experiment with how you hold the attention of the user on the longest.

Bioethicist Grimm sees the platforms in the responsibility. She says, however, it would be naive to expect that you change something, and thus your business model at risk. It has, therefore, a different Vision. “It’s kind of a public should be-law model, the best in a European network,” she says: “A platform that protects data protection, privacy and mental health.”

“It can’t be that we let us of these American players powerless the rules to discuss,” she says. You could win Influencer, she hopes, the prefer to be on a new secure platform with clear rules active – according to the Motto “We go our own way.”

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Instagram: More Beautiful Appearance?

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Instagram: More Beautiful Appearance?

And the Influencer?

Influencerin Victoria van Violence tells us that the unreliable Algorithms disturb you on Instagram the most. The App will change this constantly. “It is frustrating when a new algorithm leads to the fact that the people in my images are not displayed at all,” she says.

The 30-Year-old is also confident that the platform will change and also the Influencers of the profession itself. On Facebook, almost no Influencer today is so active on Instagram, she says.

If you ask van Violence to the responsibility, she sees this in the case of the Influencers. “People who create content in a professional context, need to be more transparent,” she says, and speaks once more of how much is on Instagram is fake. Media ethics Grimm would be glad to have more Influencer, advocate for a conscious dealing with social media.

What is good for us?

The largest construction site looks Grimm but in the case of the schools: “There is a huge need for prevention work in schools,” she says. A teacher should inform the business strategies of the companies. Students should get more opportunities to discuss and reflect on what the use of social media with you. It is important that everyone can find his own Balance in order to know exactly what’s good for you, she says.

Van Violence, who spends professional a day, two to six hours on Instagram, go on days where it is worse, and less on the platform and spends time instead with friends and family. “I am aware that this is not real on the Internet. Today, you tell a thousand people how great you are, but tomorrow it may be totally different. If there is no stable network in the real world, then you have nothing more.” The Influencerin finds, therefore, your part-time job as a radio presenter more sustainable.

Neither Grimm, nor Victoria van Violence or Dar Meshi demonize but the Social media. You say that it is a unique opportunity to come into contact with other people. “I can get information in an unconventional way, and me with different people to exchange and learn from them,” says van Violence.

“Social Media is a place that you can make,” she says: “If my people, which I follow, give you a bad feeling, I shouldn’t have to follow them.”

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