Many people especially in the younger generations have become addicted to online social media platforms from being repeatedly exposed to types of Operant Conditioning, in which a positive reinforcement occurs from online activity and this induces changes in their brain chemistry. A neurochemical is released in the brain as a reward molecule, after certain behaviors occur in a social media or marketing environment that instigate a positive reinforcement. This is similar to getting a dopamine hit, in which the brain starts to associate dopamine pathways with certain online activity, people, products or Propaganda. Operant Conditioning is a process of learned behavior from either positive or negative reinforcement, where the person associates something online as being positive or negative, and that information changes their expectations or controls their behavior.
There are massive content collection industries dedicated to capturing data and selling our attention through social media, using psychological manipulation in online marketing strategies to bait audiences and encourage large followings. To accumulate very large numbers in website hits, marketed sales or social media following, they commonly use tactics that exploit vulnerabilities in the human psyche and emotional state. The most common emotional exploitation is to trigger the desire that people have to belong somewhere, to feel accepted and acquire a social status within a desirable group. Teenagers are especially vulnerable to these manipulation tactics, not recognizing the complex deceptions that are involved. As a result, the greater the instinctual desire and need to belong, to feel accepted and be popular with a social status, the stronger the reaction the brain will have to positive conditioning where this particular belief system is being reinforced. Thus, excessive social network use can lead to addictive symptoms, using social media for changing moods and even suffering withdrawal effects. Some people can become obsessed with these positive reinforcement experiences and engage in compulsive behavior such as a need to keep playing an online game, or constantly checking email. This brings to surface our own personal responsibility to empower ourselves and our children through accessing the plethora of online educational information, but knowing moderation is needed, so we are not consumed or manipulated by the marketing tactics of unscrupulous people.
Without some personal discipline and Self Awareness, these manipulation methods can form positive associations in our brain to products or people that are marketing themselves to appear as something that they are not. We have been conditioned in this consumer society to respond to superficial facades, appearances and promises, that a product will give us a better or more glamourous life. But many times, this is actually an imposter’s sales pitch filled with Psychological Manipulations in order to get a following on social networks.