Some new research out of UCLA has found that the same addictive happiness people feel when they think about sex or money is the same positive feeling teenagers get when someone likes something they post on social media, the New York Times reports.
In order to better understand teenagers' relationship to social media, scientists at UCLA rounded up 32 teens, between the ages of 13 and 16, to study their brain activity while using a photo-sharing simulation similar to Instagram. The researchers posted and assigned likes to a mix of 150 photos of random boring objects, risky behavior, like weed and cigarettes, as well as some of the test subjects' own submitted photos.
Through fancy brain imaging, the researchers saw that when kids viewed an image that had received a lot of likes, they had more brain activity in the areas associated with reward processing, social cognition, and attention. When the teens saw that one of their own images had received a ton of likes, those areas lit up even more.
Researchers also found that people were more inclined to like a relatively bland image if they saw that many of their friends had liked it—suggesting how peer influence can shape behavior and opinion on social media.