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The Neuroscience of Social Media: BeReal and Beyond

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

Your brain is a wonderful thing.

Every little thing we do is regulated by our brains. Breathing, running, sleeping, the beat of your heart, memory retention, you name it. It’s amazing.

I’m no neuroscientist, nor will I ever be, but I’ve had the privilege of having a few neuroscientists as professors who know everything there is to know about the brain.

In one lecture, we were discussing neurotransmitters. Dopamine, commonly recognized as a love hormone, floods the brain when your phone lights up with a notification.

This is a temporary fix, though. Once you check and clear your notification, your brain is hungry for more feel good hormones. This leads to increased phone activity and possibly, a phone addiction.

Before I even attended this lecture, I made a promise to myself to cut down on my screen time. Sometimes, I’ll check out my phone’s screen time log. I’ve seen it as high as nine hours a day.

There’s no way to eliminate your screen time completely. For many of us, our lives are on our phones. We need it for school work, to apply for jobs, to contact our friends and families in times of need and more.

With this in mind, I decided to set some rules for myself. One of them was to stay away from whatever the newest social media fad shall be.

Ironically enough, BeReal made a splash on the internet less than a month after I did my little “social media soul search.” Here we are, months later, and I have yet to download BeReal.

How did I dodge downloading this app? Do I have FOMO? Am I wondering what my friends are up to on there?

Believe it or not, I’ve been completely fine without BeReal. I don’t really care if I’m “missing out.” Something about this app just sets me on edge. I’m already on my phone for hours a day — why should I let an app that makes a profit from my data and usage dictate when I should go on my phone?

I’ve seen a lot of articles and social media posts about the beauty of BeReal. Some people think BeReal is good for mental health. The app is supposed to show people in their natural habitat, straying away from the romanticized version of life we see on Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook and Twitter.

I understand this method of thinking, really. To each their own. I do, however, know some friends who anxiously await their BeReal notifications, hoping to capture the coolest part of their day.

In my opinion, it’s not worth the anxiety, stress and storage space on my phone. If you use BeReal, great! If you don’t, also great!

Whatever app you download, just remember there is a life beyond social media. Break the cycle of short-lived dopamine release and go find something that sets your soul on fire in the real world.

Some good activities to step away from the phone and make your brain happy include yoga, spending time outdoors, playing with your pets, listening to music and engaging in your favorite hobbies.

Good luck and take care of your brain!

Macy is a Pittsburgh, PA native with a passion for reading, writing, tree-hugging and music. She is pursuing a major in Biobehavioral Health, while double minoring in English and Sustainability Leadership on the Humanities Track. Outside of Her Campus, Macy spends her time with her golden retrievers and her camera.