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Social Media is Changing Our Brains

A person's phone open to Instagram looking at images while a laptop is out of focus in the background

Dallas Morning News

Ian MacRae, Harris Eyre, Andy Keller and Sandi Chapman


Social media is a collection of online platforms where people can connect with friends, family, colleagues, and strangers, share information, and consume content. Social media is now a core part of the global communications infrastructure, shaping our communication, relationships, work, and even our brains.Social media platforms are designed to influence user behavior and use techniques from psychology and neuroscience to capture our attention and keep us coming back. These platforms tailor the social media experience to users' interests and behavior. Their online activity determines everything that a user sees on social media.The impact of social media is minor for most people; the platform recommends friending people you might know and tailors the tone and content of posts and advertisements to suit your preferences. However, social media platforms need to be more discerning about the types of interests they use to connect with people. This can lead to severe problems when people interested in armed revolution or communal violence are automatically shown content that solidifies their beliefs and connects them with like-minded people nearby. Social media platforms are powerful digital communication tools that are useful for many people but also have drawbacks. Social media users should understand how their data is used and how the algorithms use it to serve up content or advertisements based on what they watch, say, and do online. The algorithm isn't picky—it will test and sample different types of content, flavors of extremism, or ranges of conspiracy theories until something tickles your brain and gets you to linger a bit longer or read more.There is also a severe distinction between how social media is used by adults and by children. Especially since leaked documents suggest that platforms like Instagram is targeting children.Read or listen to this article on Dallas Morning News

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Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD

Chief Director Dee Wyly Distinguished Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences Co-Leader, The BrainHealth Project

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