Let’s face it: We all know the feeling of logging into a social networking site and reacting with myriad emotions ranging from intrigue and delight to shock and shame. And no matter how hard we try to limit our time on social media or pull away – we just can’t bring ourselves to disconnect.

Why do we fall into this trap – and are we doomed to relive this vicious cycle or can we outsmart ourselves and break free? And, how does our tumultuous love/hate relationship with social media impact our perceptions of brands that saturate the channels with their content?

My colleague Erna Alfred Louisas and I explore these questions in our latest report. In the research, we tune into consumer emotions to explain how and why social media gains a hold on users. According to Forrester Data’s Consumer Technographics® insights, social media reach is steadily trending upward globally:

However, the emotional drivers and effects of heavy social media usage are far from linear. Our multimodal research, which blends quantitative, qualitative, and behavioral consumer data, revealed that social networks are addictive because they play to four fundamental human needs, but are also dangerous because they (often unintentionally) unleash harmful emotions among users and spark impulsive behavior. Consumers using social media linger between intense feelings of satisfaction and anxiety.

These findings have serious implications for marketers: The paradox of social media is that growth in daily consumer activity does not always mean positive outcomes for brands. Instead, marketing content on social media may ignite negative consumer emotions simply as a function of the channel.

Marketers must understand the psychology behind social networking usage and its emotional effects to optimize their social media strategy. To read the full story of the emotions behind social media behaviors and what it means, please see our report here.