How Teenagers Experience Peer Pressure Through ‘Likes’ On Instagram, Twitter And Facebook

By Samantha Finch, Parent Herald June 15, 05:00 am

Social media has been a staple in the everyday lives of teenagers and young people all over the world. And what's not to love about it? With just a photo, video or a witty sentence, teens can acquire self-esteem and confidence when other people "like" their posts or comment on it. But like many things, this kind of virtual interaction could do damage to a young person's psyche.

Virtual Peer Pressure And Conformity Effect

A study, which was published in the journal Psychological Science by Dr. Lauren Sherman and her colleagues from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that digital and social media use have huge effects on an adolescent's brain. The "like" button in social media may appear inconsequential for some, but this could promote virtual peer pressure among the teenagers, The Economist reported.

By examining the study's participants, Sherman found that teenagers are more enticed to "like" a social media post if it already has many "likes," suggesting that an adolescent feels pressured to express appreciation of a post just because others did too. This is called the conformity effect. On the other hand, teens are more hesitant to click the heart button for photos and posts with fewer "likes."

The study also found that social media photos that depict risky behavior like smoking, drinking alcohol and wearing provocative clothing don't activate the cognitive control and response inhibition areas of the teens' brains. Cautiousness is weakened when these regions don't receive heavy activation, increasing the teens' chances of committing dangerous or risky acts.

Parents Have A Harder Time Monitoring Their Child's Virtual Friends

In the past decades, parents are capable of sizing up their child's groups of friends in person. But the rise of the internet and social media has given teenagers an opportunity to be virtual friends with several hundred strangers whom they have never met outside of the Web.

Because of this, parents are more worried about who their child interacts with online. The internet is a place where young people can be heavily influenced by strangers and be roped into risky behavior, UCLA Newsroom wrote.

Despite all of its negative aspects, social media also has benefits to teenagers. In the United Kingdom, the rise of veganism is attributed to a 350 percent increase of young people opting for a plant-based diet thanks to what they see on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, The Guardian reported.

In 2006, only 150,000 people in the U.K. are vegan. Now it has reached a whopping 542,000, with 42 percent of them aged between 15 and 34. Again, the conformity effect is what likely drives this trend.

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