Teens—the impenetrable demographic that didn’t like you when you were one of them, and still doesn’t like you now. Teenagers are our go-to reaction for anything we want to make scarier or edgier sounding. “Sex” is just a thing we watch other people do while we masturbate, but “teen sex?” Hold the fuck on, that’ll initiate an act of Congress. We rely on teens to tell us what’s cool, which is why it’s very sad that today’s teens are apparently lame as hell. A new study found that teenagers get more excited for a boring picture with a lot of social media “likes” than they do over something actually cool, like drugs.
Teens—what the fuck?
UCLA researchers set up a fake social media network, vaguely resembling Instagram. They involved 32 teenagers, asking them to supply some of their own photos to supplement the ones inserted by the researchers. The researchers assigned each picture a number of likes, and then hooked the teenagers up to some science-y brain shit while they looked at them.
They found that the pleasure centers in their brains, the same parts that would activate if you were, say, receiving a sloppy blowjob from Taylor Swift while snorting cocaine, lit up when they viewed a photo with a lot of likes. The photo didn’t even have to be good—it could be some banal bullshit, like food or whatever people put on Instagram in real life—it was the likes that mattered. And the effect was magnified if it was one of the teens’ own photos, because I like to believe that all the bad shit they say about millennials is true for the ones younger than me.
That’s bad enough, but maybe not altogether surprising. Shit really went down when they showed them pictures of cool things like drugs.
“‘When the adolescents viewed images suggesting risky behavior (such as a bag of marijuana or pack of cigarettes), they were still influenced by their peers’ likes, but to a lesser extent,’ Ms. Sherman said. The researchers also did not see the same activation of the brain reward center, although they don’t know why. Teenagers viewing risky photos also exhibited decreased activity in brain regions involved in cognitive control and response inhibition, the regions that Ms. Sherman described as those that ‘put the brakes on, that tell us to be careful.’”
Way to go, teens. Thanks to your fucked-up wiring, 100 years from now no one will even know what weed is, and they’ll have bulldozed Mount Rushmore and replaced it with a giant monument to gross-ass avocado toast.