Home Cyberpsychology & Technology Double-Tap Dopamine: The Science of Social Media Likes and Its Impact on Our Minds

Double-Tap Dopamine: The Science of Social Media Likes and Its Impact on Our Minds

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Social media platforms have changed how we connect with people and create a trustable community for our brand. Especially visual platforms like Instagram, Tiktok, Facebook, and others have provided several opportunities to explore our creativity and share our experiences. You can share your knowledge or experience from your daily life and appreciate others’ content with the like feature on the social media app.

The tiny hearts on Instagram and other apps shows how much your post is appreciated. However, beneath this seemingly innocuous act of giving and receiving likes lies a powerful psychological phenomenon called “double-tap dopamine”. We are there to define the science behind social media likes, its influence on our brains, and its potential impact on mental health.

The neuroscience behind likes and dopamine

Before we dive into the psychology of social media addiction and how these social media likes impact individuals. We need to know the neurological underpinnings causing this behaviour in humans. 

The word dopamine is double as “feel good”, and the neurotransmitter is vital in giving our brain a pleasurable feeling. This happens when someone experiences something extraordinary or rewarding. For example, when someone appreciates us or rewards our efforts we feel pleasure because our brain releases dopamine.

The act of receiving likes on social media triggers a similar response. Every time we receive a like on a post, our brain releases dopamine, creating a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. This response establishes a reinforcing loop – the more likes we receive, the more dopamine is released, further encouraging us to seek validation through social media interactions. That’s the reason users buy TikTok likes and other services on different social media platforms.

The psychology of social validation

On social media, people feel pleasure when someone likes their post, which has become a fundamental need for humans to gain social validation. We often seek acceptance from others as it reinforces our sense of belonging and improves self-worth. Social media platforms capitalise on this innate desire by turning likes into a visible and quantifiable metric, publicly displaying the approval and popularity of a post or user.

That way, we create content that attracts maximum likes and positive feedback to improve our online presence. You might have noticed that some users even buy TikTok followers for mental satisfaction. At the same time, this need for external validation hurts self-esteem and affects individuals’ mental health on social media.

like culture

The downside of like culture

While social media likes can provide fleeting moments of joy, their overemphasis can lead to several adverse effects on mental health and well-being.

  • Validation addiction. The constant pursuit of likes can become an addiction, where individuals become fixated on seeking approval through social media. This obsession can lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression if validation expectations are unmet.
  • Social comparison and envy. Likes create an environment where users continuously compare themselves to others. This constant comparison can foster feelings of inadequacy and envy, as people may perceive their lives as less exciting or successful than others who receive more likes and attention.
  • Fear of missing out (FOMO). Social media perpetuates the fear of missing out, as users might feel left out or disconnected if their posts do not receive as much engagement as others’. This fear can lead to compulsive checking of notifications and an unhealthy reliance on social media for self-validation.
  • Shallow relationships. Pursuing likes can shift the focus from genuine connections to superficial interactions. People may prioritise crafting posts that appeal to a broader audience, sacrificing authenticity and meaningful conversations.
  • Mitigating the impact. While social media likes can have detrimental effects, they are not inherently harmful. You need to know the use of things because the excessive usage of anything can make it wrong. Try to implement these effective strategies on your social media, and you’ll be able to build a healthier community online:
  • Self-awareness. Be conscious of how social media affects your emotions and self-esteem. Take breaks from social media if you feel overwhelmed or find yourself seeking validation excessively.
  • Authenticity over likes. Prioritise sharing content that reflects your true self, interests, and values. Genuine connections are more rewarding than fleeting likes.
  • Limit screen time. Set boundaries on social media usage and allocate time for offline activities, hobbies, and face-to-face interactions.
  • Positive engagement. Focus on engaging with others in a constructive and uplifting manner. Encourage meaningful conversations and support others rather than competing for likes.


Double-tap dopamine is a powerful force influencing our social media behaviour. While receiving likes can be enjoyable, an excessive emphasis on validation through likes can negatively impact our mental health and overall well-being. Understanding the neuroscience behind likes and being mindful of their effects can foster healthier habits and build more authentic connections in the digital age. The number of likes does not define your worth – your value as an individual extends far beyond the virtual world.

Tim Williamson, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle. 

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