Humans have a fundamental need to belong and a fundamental desire for social status. As a result, our brains treat information about ourselves as a reward. Social Networking Sites Controlling Your Intelligence. When you check Facebook you can’t predict if someone will have left you self-relevant information or not. Social network sites are slot machines that pay out the gold of self-relevant information. This is why billions of people pull their levers. So, can they be addictive?
“When teens learn that their own pictures have supposedly received a lot of likes, they show significantly greater activation in parts of the brain’s reward circuitry,” says lead author Lauren Sherman. “This is the same group of regions responding when we see pictures of a person we love or when we win money.”
The teenagers were shown more than 140 images where ‘likes’ were believed to by their peers but were in fact assigned by the research team.
Scans revealed that the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain’s reward circuitry, was especially active when teens saw a large number of likes on their own photos, which could inspire them to use social media more often.
Adolescence is a period that is very important for social learning, which could explain why teens are often more tuned in to what’s going on in their respective cultures. With the rise of social media, Sherman thinks we may even be learning to read likes and shares instead of facial expressions.
“Before, if you were having a face to face interaction everything is qualitative. You use someone’s gestures or facial expressions, that sort of thing, to see how effective your message is,” she says.
“Now if you go online, one of the ways that you gauge the effectiveness of your message is in the number of likes, favorites or retweets, and this is something that’s really different and unique about online interaction.”