Instant gratification on social media

Nowadays, social media platforms are appearing left and right. One uppon a time I vowed to never download this one particular app because I figured it was too ‘childish’. However, with too much time on my hands in the summer break I succumbed to the temptation and finally downloaded the application called ‘TikTok’. TikTok is a social media app that allows short videos to be created and shared. If you have ever been on TikTok, you might have noticed that most videos are short and that a lot of creator have an huge amount of followers. This got me thinking about a TEDx Talks video that I watched on YouTube years ago about instant gratification in society. (Video linked below)

Instant gratification

Instant gratification is a term used to describe the desire to experience pleasure of fulfillment without delayment, foregoing a benefit in the future in order to obtain the less rewarding, but more immediate benefit. An example we probably all relate to is to eat a high calorie and unhealty snack instead of a snack that will contribute to good health, or hitting snooze and staying in bed instead of getting up early to study for a test. Some of you might have heard of ‘The Marshmallow Experiment’ before, in which children are tested on their ability to delay gratification. The sames happens in social media: uploading an image and recieving likes and compliments in matter of minutes is incredibly easy, and more importantly, quick!

The Marshmellow Experiment – Instant Gratification (Youtube 2010)

The problem with instant gratification

So why is this a problem? Humans are naturally driven to seek pleasure and avoid pain. However, John Davidson explains in his TEDx Talks video that there is no true succes in short-term gratification. The hit of dopamine you might experience makes you feel good, maybe more confident, more attractive, or even more loved. Not only that, with the fast pace of social media these hits usually come fast and often back-to-back. But with these hits, a desire to recieve another hit comes with. This might result in a cycle of constantly refreshing your social media, with eventually developping feelings of anxiety, loneliness, fear of missing out (FOMO) and a lower life statisfaction overall. Especially sleep loss works in a vicious cycle of reinforcement with mental health: sleep loss can lead to poor mental health, consequently, poor mental health can lead to sleep loss. Because of the fast pace of social media, we have become more aware of what we might be missing out on, inducing feelings of loneliness and the before mentioned ‘FOMO’. This FOMO has been linked to intensive social media use and is associated with overall lower life statisfaction. In addition to that, unrealistic expectations are being promoted through social media by manipulation of images and videos. In particular editing faces and bodies to fit in the beauty standard of this day and age. This damages mental wellbeing and induces feelings of being ugly or unwanted.


My advice for you, and for myself aswell to be frank, is to slow down and maybe try to not check your social media as much as you feel like you want. I believe social media and society nowadays are intertwined, and ‘just getting of the internet’ is not as easy as it sounds. However take your likes, comments, views, and/or streams with a grain of salt in order to not lose focus of your long-term goals in life and take care of your mental health.

How Instant Gratification is Harming Society and What to Do About It | John Davidson | TEDxCSUS (Youtube, 2018)