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A Social Disease? The Two Lives of Social Media Users

A Ball State social media expert talks about why people are addicted and why they are sometimes bolder on Facebook and Twitter.

MUNCIE, Ind.--If you've got a friend who's entirely different in real life than on Facebook, there's a psychological and a biological reason for it. You may have also noticed that people tend to be bolder and more prone to express their opinion. There's a reason for that, too.

"There's this filter that you put on to your entire life," said Kari Wissel, social media outreach coordinator for Ball State’s Center for Advancement of Digital Marketing and Analytics  "Your Facebook profile-there's a filter to it. You don't see every single piece of your life on there, right?"

Wissel said people act differently on social media for several reasons. 

"A face to face conversation really requires a lot of effort and involvement and emotion and there's certainly more depth to those kinds of conversation," she said, meaning some people just find it easier to interact with other people electronically.

But, that means they might also be prone to be bolder when they are on social media.

"You can decide to be a completely different being. So, it's really interesting because you're able to hide behind these masks and even hold up shields. Not really having any consequences to your actions, because you are behind a screen, you are more apt to share your opinion, vocalizing."

Wissel said people are also prone to covering up the parts of their life that is not so good, while posting about the parts that are.

She said people actually get an emotional rush from posting to social media.

"There's two hormones that are released in your brain when you're using social media, and that's dopamine and oxytocin. Dopamine is that pleasure chemical and that creates want. It's incredibly strong, making it kind of hard for people to unplug. And oxytocin is the cuddle chemical. It reduces stress levels. It creates feelings of love and trust."

She said the two hormones will be reflected into each person's use of social media.

Wissel said one goal people could set for themselves is learning how to minimize the filter they put on when they use social media. But, whether it's ultimately going to be good or bad for you is a matter for the individual and for further research.

Since social media has only been around for about 15 years, research into it, its uses and its consequences is fairly new and will likely be going on for a long time.

PHOTO: Chris Davis/Emmis

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