Social Media: The Controversial Frontier


“Sometimes I’ll scroll through TikTok for three or four hours at night and I don’t even realize how long it’s been till I get a pop-up notification asking me if I want to take a break.” Such was the casual comment made by a coworker that made us think, “you know, I think there’s a Star Trek plot for this.”

Posted by ryanblair in Social Media, Television | April 21, 2021

Now, before you say, “more social media vilification? Oh, shut up, Wesley!” allow us to clarify: We are by no means here to say anybody should stop using social media, or that it’s bad across the board.


In fact, we think social media is a fantastic means of keeping in touch with loved ones in addition to connecting with your audience and telling your brand story!


… But who says we can’t have a little fun and let our geek flag fly every once in a while?


Introducing: The Game


Star Trek The Next Generation, season 5, episode 6: “The Game.” Originally premiered in the United States on Oct. 28, 1991, this episode features the return of Wesley Crusher from Starfleet Academy. However, as he is beamed back aboard the Enterprise (for what can only be loosely referred to as a “vacation”), things take a left turn pretty quickly.


The trouble all starts when First Officer William Riker comes back from shore leave on the “pleasure planet” Risa. While on the planet, he is introduced to a device only ever ominously referred to as “a game” by his Ktarian companion, Etana. Unfortunately, he then brings the game aboard with him — much to the detriment of the entire crew.


The game effectively brainwashes the user by way of serotonin production and prefrontal cortex stimulation, where the brain’s reasoning takes place. In other words, the game addicts its players, and it’s left to Wesley, short-lived romantic interest Ensign Robin Lefler (Shout out to Ashley Judd), and Second Officer Data to undo the damage wrought by the psychotropic device.


But don’t worry — after plenty of academy jokes and references, minutes spent wanting to pull your hair out, and one mildly uncomfortable chocolate fudge scene, the crew’s brains are restored to proper cognitive functioning thanks to Data’s palm beacon, which emits a series of optical bursts.


They then apprehend the mastermind behind the evil game (you guessed it: Etana), and then continue merrily on their way through the final frontier.


And Social Media Fits Where, Exactly?


Simple: Serotonin and the prefrontal cortex. But for now, let’s just focus on the latter.


“The human [prefrontal cortex] is central to many of the behaviors that make us ‘human,’ including language, reasoning, decision making, social interactions, planning, and creativity,” researchers have confirmed.


Thus, much like the aforementioned game, social media stimulates that region of our brain, thereby impacting our social perceptions and behaviors in addition to our habits with regard to general reasoning and more.


Moreover, a study published in 2019 concluded that “being rejected online has been shown to increase activity in brain regions strongly linked with social cognition and real‐world rejection.” In other words? The prefrontal cortex is what makes us feel so terrible after what we perceive as rejection via social media.


“Okay,” you may be thinking. “But what about serotonin? Rejection aside, surely social media makes us feel good, too, right?”


Well, sort of. You see, where the game increased the production of characters’ serotonin in Star Trek, social media may sometimes have the opposite effect for us in real life.


“The [brain] circuitry activated when you connect online is the seeking circuitry of dopamine,” according to the Harvard Business Review. “Yet when we connect with people online, we don’t tend to get the oxytocin or serotonin calming reward that happens when we bond with someone in real time, when our circuits resonate with real-time shared emotions and experiences.”


In other words, unlike the game, social media is not as likely to produce serotonin (but considering the nature of the game? We can consider this a good thing). It may, however, activate an increased desire for dopamine — which you get a hit of whenever you get a “like” or positive comment — thereby creating a “craving” or “addictive force” all its own when relied upon too heavily.


The Bottom Line


As they say, everything in moderation, right? And social media is no exception. 


Truly, it is not inherently addictive, nor is it bad for us when used properly! For our personal lives, social media is actually complementary to our real-life interactions, essentially augmenting our ability to connect with the world around us in addition to the people we love on a daily basis.


And for your marketing strategy? Social media becomes another positive resource altogether!


In fact, here at Mad Men Marketing, we have appreciation for how social media has optimized many brands’ ability to interact with their audience(s) and creatively express themselves across numerous platforms. And that’s why we offer comprehensive social media content and strategy services — because, while social media isn’t a game, we’re still here to help you win your customers’ trust!


So, are you ready to learn more about effectively interacting instead of interrupting on your social media platforms? Then contact Mad Men Marketing today by calling 904-355-1766!

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