The simple, scientific (and kind of scary) reason behind social media addiction

Chinie Diaz
I was really relieved to hear there was this whole smart, scientific explanation for the fact that I practically live inside my computer

Chinie Diaz


Editor’s Note: This was originally published in Chinie Diaz’s blog, Fab After Forty. It is republished here with Chinie’s permission. 



At the IMMAP Summit, Maria Ressa spoke about the effects of social media on the brain, and OMG! I finally understood why I can’t seem to stay the heck away from Facebook and Twitter! 



She’s quite the brilliant little firecracker, that Maria.

Anyway I was really relieved to hear there was this whole smart, scientific explanation for the fact that I practically live inside my computer. Before that talk, I honestly thought I just loved social media because it totally allowed me to eavesdrop and butt in on everyone — without seeming super creepy.

BUT NO! HA! It’s not because I’m a gossip-lovin’ little stalker at heart! It’s because social media use releases dopamine and oxytocin into our brains!

“Oooh.. ok. WTF are those???” you might ask?

Well, dopamine is the stuff that gets released into our brains when we do fun and exciting things like fall in love, have sex, go skydiving, take crystal meth… hmm… ok maybe skip the last one. But you get the drift. Dopamine makes the brain go “Wheee! Rewards! Pleasure! Let’s do this! Woohoo!”

Studies have shown that we get a double dose of dopamine when we use social media: first when we self-disclose (i.e. talk about ourselves, share our thoughts & opinions, post narcissistic pictures, etc) and then again when people react and interact with us.

“There’s good evidence the feedback we get from technology — the retweets and bings and pings that come out of the phone every time somebody sends us a text message — create a reward system in the brain that gives us a little squirt of dopamine each time.” – Steve Daviss of the Baltimore Washington Medical Center “

Isn’t that FASCINATING??? Dopamine buzz! It totally explains why people post cryptic or super-radical updates that beg you to react… or get all depressed when no one ‘likes” their pictures or funny comments! They’re not just KSP! They’re looking for a fix!

Oxytocin, on the other hand, is the same hormone that’s released when you kiss or hug. This is why it’s sometimes referred to as “the cuddle chemical.” And apparently this little jolt of hugalicious joy spikes when you’re tweeting

So no, my fellow Twitter addicts, we’re not insane — no matter what my husband says.

It explains so much, doesn’t it? But it’s also a little scary… and not just because it proves how shockingly self-absorbed we really are. Basically our brains are being trained by social media to constantly seek these little highs… and I do wonder (and worry) about the effects of that brain-rewiring on our real life interactions.



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