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When people talk about the addiction to social media, they often approach the issue from a humorous perspective, with phrases such as “I depend on my daily dose of social media” being mentioned in conversations frequently. However, what many fail to recognize is that the psychology of depending on sources of online interaction is based on severe levels of manipulation from major corporations that need to make their content appealing for it to go ‘viral’ and get as many advertisement views and clicks as possible. Thus, despite the vast amount of positive implications of social media, recognizing its harmful psychological effects is imperative. To illustrate this, an analysis of Asaf Hanuka’s “Likecoholic” will be conducted, connecting it with a recent Forbes article covering this topic.
Upon seeing Hanuka’s piece of art, one cannot help to think about a Black Mirror episode in which the reputation and the livelihood of each person were solely dependent on their virtual rating that was based on the number of likes they get. Although such a prospect is terrifying to imagine in real life, especially for the target audience – regular social media users, the metaphor used in “Likecoholic” is extremely similar to what occurs today.
The overuse of the ‘Like’ button on Facebook is an issue that most Facebook users encounter, which is why the piece of art is so honest despite its dark humor undertones. Modern scholars have started likening the addiction to the use of social media to smoking, stating that companies such as Facebook must be regulated “exactly the same way you regulated the cigarette industry,” in which the interests and safety of users are put at the forefront (Wågström). However ambitious this proposition is, multiple facts point to the increased addiction of people to social media, as Hanuka smartly highlighted.
In the illustration, one sees a man sitting behind a computer with an overindulged expression on his face as he plugs his computer into his vein, which is a clear metaphor for substance addiction (Hanuka). Dozens of ‘Like’ icons float out of his mouth and scatter around him, representing evident repetition and close resemblance of these components of the work. The man’s computer shows an open Facebook page, from which the ‘Likes’ are being downloaded to curb his need to get more and more likes.
To persuade observers that social media is addictive, the artist used striking imagery that would be remembered. Thus, the repetition of ‘Like’ icons can be considered a metaphor for the increased need of society to get recognition from strangers. The computer, the phone, the empty disposable coffee cup on the table, the red cord connecting the man to his iMac all represent the logical strands that tie the image together. There is also a binary opposition, an anomaly between the grey tones of the image and the vibrant colors of ‘Like’ icons, which suggests that only artificial approval and recognition makes the illustration’s protagonist satisfied and happy.
The ‘poop’ emoji that replaces the Apple logo on the computer also adds to Hanuka’s metaphor as technologies are the tools that people use for facilitating their addiction to social media. The irony in Hanuka’s “Likecoholic” is that only new likes and new engagement matter. One can see some of the ‘Like’ icons being thrown out in the garbage as they have already served their purpose of momentary pleasure and were discarded in the search for a new ‘dose.’
Unfortunately, Hanuka’s metaphors have some basis in reality. According to the Forbes article by Wågström, multiple studies have shown that social media addiction is real. To persuade readers about the addictive qualities of social media, the author cites statistics from all over the world. With billions of worldwide Facebook users and millions of Tweets posted daily on Twitter, social media attracts people with its design and manipulation tactics that are based on engagement maximization (Wågström).
Regarding repetitions in the article, the term addiction is used consistently to underline the adverse impact of social media on society. Logical strands are built by using the following terms: likes, follows, emojis, FOMO, ego, platform, validation, which are similar to Hanuka’s strands. Binary opposition is seen in the comparison of social media use to smoking, both of which are addictive: the more one smokes, the more he or she wants to smoke; the more one scrolls and posts online, the more one wants more.
The addiction to social media is explained by simple facts about human psychology. This can also be linked to Hanuka’s perspective as there is a clear psychological undertone present in “Likecoholic.” For instance, humans are social creatures and require interactions with others to feel as if they belong. They need validation for thoughts and behaviors they share, especially when it comes to ego recognition.
This is seen in “Likecoholic” – the superficial approval fuels a person’s ego and sense of belonging to society. Findings to support this were made by Harvard University researchers who concluded that human brain chemistry encourages engagement online as self-disclosure leads to pleasure (Walker). This is especially relevant when applied to Hanuka’s illustration as the man in it is experiencing pleasure by receiving likes online from strangers.
Asaf Hanuka’s “Likecoholic” is both a disturbing and comedic piece of art that mocks the problem of social media addiction while also pointing out its dangers. The research conducted by modern scholars supports the artist’s views, suggesting that there are both physical and psychological implications of social media addiction. For society not to end up like the Black Mirror episode, imposing better rules to address social media addiction is paramount.
Hanuka, Asaf. “Likecoholic.” 2008. Asafhanuka. Web.
Wågström, Göran. “Is Social Media Addiction Worse Than Cigarettes?” Forbes. 2018. Web.
Walker, Leslie. “Study: Social Media Fires Up Brain’s Pleasure Center.” Lifewire. 2018. Web.