Perhaps if Tim Berners-Lee knew that his invention of the internet would eventually give birth to a a new beast known as social media- a disturbing amalgamation of duckface and hipster selfies, cyberbullying, body shaming, and Olympic athlete trolling- he might have had second thoughts. Social media has had a profound influence and vise-like grip on the time and attention of my peer group- the Millenials and we have in turn constructed and shaped its purpose . Pew Research found 24% of teenagers go online “almost constantly”, and 1 billion people use Facebook daily. As a millennial , I hesitate to criticize social media because criticizing social media might be perceived as the “cool” and “edgy” counter-cultural thing to do . However, because this is such a new aspect of the human experience whose effects have yet to be understood , we must ask whether this increased interconnectedness has the capacity to have an adverse effect on the growth and development of my generation as well as the generations to come.Researchers at the UCLA Brain Mapping center have given us some intriguing data to help us understand the effects of social media on the adolescent brain. They scanned 32 teenager’s brain activity using fMRI and let them use a custom made pseudo-Instagram site controlled by the researchers themselves. Each teen looked at 148 images with a certain number of “likes”, and 40 of these were the teen’s own constructed images. Unknown to the teenagers, it was the researchers who had assigned the numbers of “likes” to each photo. Scientists found that the “reward center” region of the brain was activated whenever the photos published by the teenagers received likes. The reward center of the brain is made up of multiple brain regions that are activated during sexual activity , drug use, eating , and social interactions. This may explain the all-too-familiar rush you experience when someone you care about “likes” one of your photos- you are neurologically hardwired to seek experiences like that. We are utilizing computers and smartphones to fulfill an ingrained, genetically programmed desire for reward and seeking attention and social power on social media to gratify that need – but it’s only now that the level of attention that we receive can become quantified and tallied up. In order to see just how “important” someone is- just scroll through their feed and count up the “likes”. Compare their followers and likes to your own and now you get to feel jealous and insignificant in comparison. Now social media provides us numerical proof of just how important or unimportant we are in our world, and it’s not a stretch to imagine that it could have negative effects on our overall mental health.My psychology teacher in high school stressed the following dictum : correlation does not prove causation , so in order to connect the dots between social media and mental health , let’s turn to Brian Primack’s work at the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburgh. He explored the relationship between social media and depression and theorized that those individuals with depression already may lack the motivation to engage in face-to-face relationships and can easily turn inward to social media. What they will most likely see are the idealized and curated profiles of those who live lives they perceive as “superior” to their own. This is what Primack called “the vicious cycle” of depressed individuals retreating to social media to only become more depressed. As all individuals have differing mental states and social lives, this cycle may not be generalizable – social media will not cause depression in everyone. It is not a general rule that if one uses Facebook enough , that they they will then get depressed. Nevertheless , given that twenty percent of teens will experience diagnosable major depression before adulthood, being potentially constantly exposed to the interesting, dynamic, and filtered pictures of the lives and experiences of other teens can be problematic . I do not want to dissuade anyone from using social media though I find this data to form an important cautionary tale for me and my Millenial generation. We must come to understand we are dealing with an intense , inborn desire for acceptance and appreciation that cannot be satisfied through social media . Don’t let social media replace the warmth and reward of real-world relationships and interactions.