Life's biggest adrenaline rush in the modern age comes not from bungee jumping or cliff diving, but from the digital appendage that's undoubtedly grasped in your hand as you read this.
According to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science, receiving social media likes on an Instagram photo or a Facebook status stimulates the same reward centers in the brain activated by thoughts of sex, money, and the obvious—ice cream. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles re-created a social media platform not dissimilar to Instagram and had 32 study participants view a series of photographs, some of which they contributed to the news feed themselves.
When the subjects viewed images with a lot of likes, neural regions in the brain involved with "reward processing, social cognition, imitation, and attention" fired up, as reported by The New York Times. The effect was amplified when the subjects viewed their own photos receiving a lot of likes. Participants were also more likely to like a photo with a lot of activity over one with fewer likes and comments.
Although the study focused mainly on 13- to 18-year-olds in an effort to discern social media's hand in peer pressure and socialization, the study speaks to social media's growing influence on our happiness, confidence, and self-esteem. As anyone with an Instagram account can attest, seeing the likes roll in on the vacation photo you just uploaded can definitely add a little spring to your step, regardless of your age.
Do you agree that posting on Instagram leads to feelings of happiness? Here's an Instagram photography book to shop, and tell us your opinion in the comments below.