Over-sharing on social media is just like sex, experts say

over sharing on social media is just like sex experts say brainscanIt turns out, there’s a reason why people love to talk about themselves so much on Twitter, Facebook and other social media – And, no, cynics, it’s not just because that’s what everyone thinks those services are there for. A new study from the Harvard Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab has discovered that it feels really good when we share information about ourselves, in the same way that it feels really good when we have sex. Suddenly, that Pinterest site you were thinking about setting up about yourself feels a little creepy, doesn’t it…?

Studies have shown that 80 percent of the average user’s social media posts – and 30-40 percent of the average person’s speech output each day, for that matter – consist of self-disclosure, leading scientists to consider just why we’re all so convinced with talking about ourselves. Harvard SCAN Lab‘s Diana Tamir and co-author Jason Mitchell took on the question, hooking subjects up to an MRI machine to monitor brain activity as they answered questions about their own and others’ attitudes on various subjects (including, amusingly, Barack Obama’s enjoyment of winter sports such as skiing) in case there was a discernible difference. The result [pdf] was the discovery that talking about yourself engages two areas of the brain associated with reward – the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) – in ways that talking about other subjects just… doesn’t.

For those unfamiliar with brain regions, the nucleus accumbens is part of the brain most commonly linked to concepts of reward, pleasure and addiction, considered important in the processing of such pleasurable activities as sex or good food. The ventral tegmental, meanwhile, is similarly linked to reward processing, as well as pleasurable feelings we get from being in love. So, basically, talking about yourself is just like having sex while eating chocolate. Or something.

Tamir and Mitchell also considered whether or not having an audience was responsible for the reward felt when sharing information about yourself, with Tamir telling the LA Times that “We didn’t know if self-disclosure was rewarding because you get to think about yourself and thinking about yourself is rewarding, or if it is important to have an audience.” The result, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that mental reward activity comes with the knowledge that someone they know is receiving the information being given, compared with sending information out into a void. Tamir believes that this explains the success of social media: “I think it helps explain why Twitter exists and why Facebook is so popular, because people enjoy sharing information about each other.”

All that remains now is for someone to monitor the brain activity of someone live-tweeting themselves eating chocolate during sex… but I’m sure that’ll happen before too long.

Social Media

Instagram’s new Close Friends List lets you decide who should see your Story

Have a story to share, but don't want to send it to everyone? Instagram now offers a close friends list that will allow users to share stories with only the users included on that list.
Movies & TV

The 10 best 'Black Mirror' episodes are thought-provoking, disturbing, mesmerizing

After watching all 19 episodes across four seasons and one special, we've selected and ranked the best Black Mirror episodes released so far. Read on to find out if your favorite episode from the award-winning Netflix series made the list.

It's dangerous to go alone! Have fun with friends in our favorite co-op games

Video games don't always have to be so brutal, dog-eat-dog experiences! Here are some of our all-time favorite co-op games across a range of platforms, genres, and difficulties.
Social Media

Survey of teens says social media lets them connect with friends and get support

A survey of teenagers shows the ways that social media sites can be beneficial to them, like feeling more connected to their friends, the ability to interact with different people, and as a venue to get support when they are struggling.
Social Media

Hotel chain offers an Instagram ‘sitter’ who will post photos for you

If the pressure to post stunning Instagram photos is ruining your vacations, then how about hiring a local Instagram influencer to do the job for you while you go off and enjoy yourself? Well, such a service now exists.
Social Media

Ride the rails and share your stories with Amtrak’s new social media residency

Amtrak is looking for travel fans with a knack for telling stories on social media. The new Amtrak social media residency program wants amateur travelers to share photos, video, and written content from aboard long-distance trips.
Social Media

Hangouts isn’t being hung out to dry in 2020, Google says

According to a report, Google may shut down Google Hangouts by 2020. While Hangouts was once Google's top-tier messaging app, the app has since been neglected in favor of Android Messages.
Social Media

Tumblr bans nudity to create ‘a safe place for creative expression’

Tumblr will soon no longer allow images with adult content. The company says the change is one that's designed to help more creators feel comfortable sharing on the platform, but admits the change won't happen overnight.
Social Media

Members can share the same Story with Facebook’s new Group Stories

Facebook Group members can now view and share Group Stories. Unlike the Stories for an individual user, the new tool allows members to contribute to the same Group Story, if the feature isn't turned off by an admin.
Social Media

You can now share saved Facebook posts with a Pinterest-like collection tool

Facebook collections can now be shared with friends if you also want to allow them to contribute to the list. Facebook is rolling out an update that allows users to add a contributor to their collections, or lists of saved Facebook posts.

Broadway actor tells Kanye West to get off his phone during opening night

Theater actors can get understandably upset when they spot someone in the audience fiddling with their phone instead of watching the show. The other night that audience member was Kanye West, and he got called out for it.
Social Media

This event topped Facebook’s biggest moments of the year — again

As the year comes to a close, Facebook is looking back on what users discussed most over the last year. For two years in a row, International Women's Day topped the list. So what else is on the list?
Social Media

This band owns Twitter, according to list of top accounts and tweets for 2018

What was the biggest buzz on Twitter in 2018? Twitter's 2018 Year in Review highlights the biggest tweets, accounts, and hashtags. The most-tweeted celebrities, movies, TV shows, athletes, politicians and more in Twitter's 2018 trends.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.