WATCH: Social media "likes" are better than sex according to a new study

- It looks like teens are over “sex, drugs and rock & roll” and all about the Facebook “likes.” Positive feedback on social media is a better high than drugs for teens according to researchers at UCLA. The same reward center in the brain that gives the sensation of pleasure (and is traditionally activated by thoughts of sex, money, or chocolate) is also turned on when teenagers see their photos getting a lot of likes on social media.

The researchers recruited 32 teenagers and told them they were testing out a small social network modeled after Instagram, where friends or followers can “like” an image or video that they post by clicking on a heart-shaped icon. When the teens saw that something they posted had gotten a “like,” there was greater activity in neural regions of the brain involved with reward processing, social cognition, imitation, and attention than those who had only received a few likes.

But it turns out, teens are still susceptible to peer pressure. They are far more likely to endorse an image if it had already gotten dozens of likes, even if the picture wasn’t that great. They were less likely to like the same kind of image if it had gotten just a few likes.

The study’s lead author Lauren Sherman said that the "likes" are “potentially serving as a social cue, orienting them to what is cool or socially appropriate. Learning about the social world is a really important task of adolescence.” So social cues are now learned on social media instead of on television like when we were kids? Times, they are a changin'. 

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