Posting on Social Media! Why do we do it?

These psychological mechanisms explain it! 

The rises of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or more recently TikTok have several success-guaranteeing aspects. Many of them we are aware of, some perhaps less so. You probably knew that social media uses all kinds of psychological tricks to subconsciously tie you to your smartphone. But what exactly is being “exploited” of our natural mechanisms and needs is probably something you are not yet aware of. 

Behind many of the functions on social networks lies years of psychological research. For example, it is well known that behaviour always depends on three aspects: motivation, both intrinsic and extrinsic, our own abilities, and a trigger. 

Let’s focus on the most important aspect of any social media platform, the posts. None of these apps work without such personal “messages”, whether they are videos, photos, tweets or snaps. They all tap into very simple aspects of our mind and make it as easy as possible for us to post. Because the more posts, the better! This is the motto of every major social media platform.  

Behavioural aspect 1: Motivation  

You, like almost every human being, have a natural need to communicate. This in itself is very beneficial and important for your mental health. However, social media exploits this need to “steal” attention from other people. In addition, every human being seeks social recognition and affirmation. Precisely this is our intrinsic motivation that drives us to create a post. Furthermore, social media channels also motivate us extrinsically by rewarding us for our posts. For example, we get likes on Facebook or Instagram. These likes act as digital affirmation, but they can never authentically satisfy our need for recognition. Snapchat makes use of the “law” of reciprocity. This states that we have an inner need to reciprocate. So we are motivated to send a Snap because we have the inner need to return the gift we received. We deliberately call a snap a “gift” because whilst opening a snap the same zones in our brain get stimulated that are also active when we receive a gift. 

Behavioural aspect 2: own abilities  

We only perform an action if we attribute our own abilities to be able to perform this action. Social media therefore simply reduces the necessary effort and skill resources as much as possible. You don’t have to be a photographer to take a beautiful Instagram photo these days, you have filters for that. You don’t need a flawless face and makeup skills anymore either, Snapchat filters take care of that. A cool video, easy, use TikTok. This really makes it possible for anyone, even without special skills in one of these areas, to perform such actions “well”. 

Behavioural aspect 3: it requires a trigger.  

Every behaviour still needs to be “triggered” somehow. FOMO! This common term describes the fear of missing out. “I have to quickly capture this moment and post it on Insta!” We are afraid of not being able to record such “significant” moments and share them with others. But this very often prevents us from really enjoying the moment… Add to that the constant notifications and hints from the apps that we could eventually post something. Such push notifications and also the little numbers on the apps’ icons have the task of triggering us again and again. You have the urge to open the app so that this number above the icon disappears? Almost all of us feel that way. In this respect, social media exploits our inner urge for order. 

Now that you know exactly how you are being tricked, you will definitely not fall for it in the future 😉 This would be great, but it won’t be that easy… The “rules” of human thinking and acting that are exploited by social media platforms are so deeply anchored in our behaviour patterns that it usually takes a lot of willpower to work against them. Just try not opening the app when you feel the urge to make that annoying red number above the icon disappear. It probably won’t be that easy.