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Pavlov and Instagram

  • September 18, 2017
  • By MaggieLovesOrbit
Pavlov and Instagram

Humans are hardwired for creativity and connection.  We seek validity and intimacy.  We want to be seen.

That’s why the decrease in engagement is turning the Instagram community upside down.

It’s touching a nerve in our amygdala.  Often called the lizard brain (because it’s thought to be the oldest part of our brain) … the amygdala is associated with one thing.  Fear.  The amygdala is the reason we are afraid of things outside our control.   Prior to the algorithm change there was this misconception we had control of the platform.  When Instagram announce it was going to apply the algorithm – we quickly realized we are not in control.

Our smartphone has turned into Pavlov and he is in our pocket

I started in marketing 20 years ago.  My first lesson is that marketing is a contact sport.  You have to meet people to start the conversation.  20 years ago this literally meant we went to trade shows to meet buyers and pitch our products.

Now that interaction can happen on our smartphones, marketing people have gotten onto social media.  From my standpoint it’s fabulous really.  Now I can interact with people online without leaving the comforts of my office.

Instagram has been one of my favorite platforms because it feels the most genuine.  It’s where one on one conversation can take place.

Part of my approach to any social media platform is understanding the WHY of the ecosystem.  My ultimate goal is to find the right people to connect with for my clients.  Likes and follows are nice vanity metrics but to a business they are just numbers until it turns into sales.

And as part of that process of analysis it occurred to me last week … that I was finding myself addicted to the notifications.  Or lets be honest, my boyfriend pointed out I constantly kept checking my phone.

At that time the Amazon commercial came on (you know the one with the cute dog) and all of a sudden I realized Pavlov is in our pockets.

With each buzz, vibrate, alert … a dopamine rush occurs.

This isn’t a new idea.  I looked this up and found there are many observations and studies about the pavlovian responses on social media.

This is precisely why social media companies use systems like hearts, likes, and follows because it’s capitalizing on creating this pavlovian response to their notifications of responses from the community.  They have it set up this way to psychologically manipulate our needs for love and belonging.

Take back control of your mind

I’m a podcast lover.  I listen to my favorites during my morning walks with the girls.  And as serendipity would have it @me_and_orla had a topic that was right in line with this theory of Pavlov.  It’s a great episode and if you’re interested give it a listen via this link.  She talks with her guest Sas Petherick to talk about how social media banks on this feeling of self doubt and how you can start to use it again on your own terms.


The internet makes the world feel like a very small and large place all at the same time.  In this episode Sas mentions @allison_sadler_ who started #freeupmyinsta where she calls on herself and other around her to have COURAGE to be YOU

The general message that she is sending out and what I want to say is that we need to be aware of how we are manipulated by the notifications, alerts, and numbers.

We are more than these numbers

Each of us have a story to share.  We do not need a follower count or analytics to tell us how likable or how popular we are.  When we complain about the drop in engagement and the drop in follower count what we are really saying is we need these number to not be disappointed and feel validated.

This is not our platform

Let’s remember for a second that we do not own Instagram.  We don’t call the rules.

Let’s remember what’s important

We should remember why we got on Instagram in the first place.  We should be posting for the love in sharing our story and our love for connection …. but we should do so on our own terms.

And what I mean by that is be mentally strong to know that you are MORE than the numbers that show up on your page.  Your story is valid on its own and doesn’t need the validation in the number of likes and follows.

Yes the algorithm is changing the platform and yes it changes who you get to interact with but remember each one of us can decide how we show up and how we get fulfilled from our content and interactions.  In doing so we change the experience we have and give ourselves freedom to create from the heart once again.

A post shared by my dogs carry my heart (@maggielovesorbit) on [/fusion_text][fusion_text]If you liked this post visit these other articles:

By MaggieLovesOrbit, September 18, 2017
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