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'Kho Gaye Hum Kahan': Why Do We Behave on Social Media the Way We Do?

As chronically online individuals, are we letting the internet reprogram our brains?

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(Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers.)

“It’s the digital age. Sirf lagta hai zyada connected hai, lekin shayad itne akele pehle kabhi nahi the.”

This one dialogue from Tiger Baby Films’ Kho Gaye Hum Kahan – starring Ananya Panday, Adarsh Gourav, and Siddhant Chaturvedi has struck a chord with a lot of people on social media. And I mean, a LOTTTT. 

I’m not exaggerating when I say that since the film released on Netflix on 26 December, I’ve seen at least a few thousand posts on Instagram with this dialogue and captions like “Reality never hit harder.”

On my timeline at least, it is almost always shared by chronically online people.

As chronically online individuals, are we letting the internet reprogram our brains?

Screenshot from Instagram.

If this loneliness feels relatable to so many people, is there something wrong with the way we are using social media, perhaps? Why do we behave the way we do on social media?

As someone who is also always on her phone, I decided to ask experts for The Quint.

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The Big Question: Why Are We Online So Much?

First, what makes social media such an attractive space for many? 

Dr Sudhir Kumar, Neurologist, Apollo Hospital, Hyderabad, says it’s because of the way our brain’s 'reward system' works.

A like, retweet, comment, share, or basically any notification on your phone makes your brain release dopamine (a neurotransmitter) which sends a rush of happy hormones in your body.

In the film, Ahana (played by Ananya) lights up every time someone leaves a comment on one of her posts, hyping her up. That's what studies say happens with most of us too.

Social media applications like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and X (formerly Twitter) are addictive. The ‘infinite scroll’ means that the updates on your feed never end, there’s always something new loading. 

“It becomes like an addiction, or in better cases, a habit. When we do something that makes us happy, dopamine, is released and our reward centre is activated.”
Dr Sudhir Kumar

A 2020 research study published in the Institute for Internet & the Just Society said, “Interestingly, apps designed to grab our attention act on similar parts of the brain as those involved in cocaine and amphetamine addiction which rely on the dopamine system.”

So, that is what keeps you coming back. That is probably why you’ve at least switched to Instagram once in the middle of reading this article.

A 2009 study titled Why We Share: A Study of Motivations for Mobile Media Sharing talked about how “social and emotional influences” play a huge role in the way we share online. According to the research, the urge for self-expression and sharing your "collective experiences" were some reasons that people went on social media, but other major reasons included anxiety, loneliness, and anger.

Not to forget FOMO or the fear of missing out. 

As chronically online individuals, are we letting the internet reprogram our brains?

Dr Rituparna Ghosh, Clinical Psychologist, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai, says, “Social media is one place where our intense ‘need to be needed’ gets fulfilled. We seek validation and reassurance from other people that I’m doing something good or that I’ve achieved something. And we use this validation to boost our self esteem sometimes because we don’t derive a lot of pleasure from being with ourselves these days.”

Whoosh! “What a personal attacc,” as my GenZ friends (like me) would say.

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‘We’re Posting More for Others Than for Ourselves’

This probably also explains why we try to show only our happier sides on social media, right? Yes, affirms Dr Ghosh.

When Ahana is going through a break up, she’s shown to be constantly posting about how she’s thriving and feeling “blessed.”

Dr Ghosh says that this is not the healthiest way to deal with something sensitive. She says,

“When we are feeling low because of a person or an incident, we want to hurt them. We want to show that ‘See, even without you, I’m thriving’. But this is the mask people put on to hide what they’re truly feeling.”
As chronically online individuals, are we letting the internet reprogram our brains?

There's also a lot else that goes on when one tries to navigate social media, like the constant battle within about whether you block someone online who you were once close with or not, or going down a rabbit-hole to find out who your ex is now dating, or the pressure to go viral overnight, the urge to have a widespread reach – all of which the film shows without a judge-y lens.

But there are better ways to handle such situations. What Dr Ghosh suggests is also what the film’s last monologue tells you.

"Spend some time with yourself, work on yourself, and give the space and time to your heart and to yourself to heal," she says, and the film too, echos.

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The Trolls: Deeply Unhappy or Anti-Social?

There was another sequence in the film that stayed with me. One where Neil is pissed with his ex and social media influencer Lala. He creates a new social media account with a fake username to troll her.

But after he’s done commenting on Lala’s posts, he goes on to the profiles of other celebrities and starts being mean to them in the comments. Arrey?!! Karan Johar ne tumhara kya bigada hai bhai?

Dr Kumar feels that trolls are often people with antisocial personalities so for them trolling people universally is not strange. “They derive pleasure from offending or being mean to anyone,” he says.

Dr Ghosh differs though from what Dr Kumar says. Her reading is perhaps more accurate too in Neil’s case. 

“People who troll or hurl abuses at others online are often themselves going through something. They’re not happy and satisfied with their lives, they don’t have self worth, and this becomes an immature defence mechanism for them. Their feeling of guilt or inferiority is projected. And they use it to inflate their egos. This is a displaced way to channel their anger and the negative emotions that they’re feeling.”
Dr Rituparna Ghosh

At this point though, it feels like a loop. According to Neuline Health, "Growing evidence indicates this kind of exaggerated self-representation perpetuates the cycle of comparison and often leads to feelings of inadequacy and sadness."

So, what does one do then? Watch films like Kho Gaye Hum Kahan for reality checks? The answer is much simpler (or is it?).

Dr Ghosh says, "Find time to be with yourself, do some physical activity, be present in the moment, and put your happiness in your control."

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Social Media   Pop Culture 

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