We connect with people all the time or I should say at least try to connect with people. But with fast pace of urban life, there is hardly any time to connect with people, at least in person. That is the reason social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook are becoming popular in combination of smart phones such as iPhone, Blackberry, etc.
Scientific studies reveal that brain releases a chemical called oxytocin, when you connect with somebody emotionally. The level of oxytocin is elevated by numerous behaviors involving connection with people, including orgasm, birth, breastfeeding, and pair bonding. This is reason; scientists call this chemical as “the cuddle hormone”. The question is does social media interaction elevates the oxytocin levels in you?
Is there increase in oxytocin through social media?
Well, as oxytocin is released due to interpersonal connection, it is intuitive that Twitter, Facbook should drive its release. Paul Zak, neuroeconomist at Claremont Graduate University in California, conducted an experiment on a journalist Adam Penenberg who was writing about Zak’s work for this Fast Company article.
- Zak collected sample of Penenberg’s blood before and after he used Twitter for 10 minutes, while he was sending and receiving tweets.
- Oxytocin levels were significantly higher after Twitter use and the stress hormone was reduced.
What is the impact of oxytocin levels on human behavior?
Zak said that
- Research has shown that people are more empathetic when their oxytocin...
levels go up
- They are more kind, honest and fair to others
- People may be nicer – at least for about an hour – after they’ve been interacting with social media
Is this a large enough study to link social media tools to oxytocin levels?
Off course not, sample size of one is not at all statistically relevant. But it does show promise and as Zak said “if it works so well in one person, there’s reason to believe it will for others too”.
Are there downsides of interaction at Social media sites?
As they say, there is no free lunch. If people are interacted online too much that could be detrimental in the sense that they ignore or avoid in-person encounters.
Social media, especially Twitter and Facebook have become popular in no time and as smart phone and wireless technology continue to improve, I can see social media growth is endless. I think Zak put it nicely, “If your goal in life is to be connected to other people, how you connect doesn’t really matter – in person, online, it’s all the same biology of connection,” he said.