A research carried out at the Free University of Berlin (Freie Universität Berlin) and published in “Frontiers in Human Neuroscience” analyzed the effects of Facebook on the human brain. 31 subjects were examined using magnetic resonance imaging while (MRI) while they watched pictures of themselves or other people accompanied by positive comments.
The result of this research shows that it’s possible to predict the intensity of the use of Facebook by people examining the reaction of their brains to a positive social feedback. In particular, the researchers led by Dar Meshi found an activation of a small area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. This area is known for its importance in the mechanisms of reward, pleasure and even in the origin of the placebo effect.
Reputation is important for people and already in the and neuroscience research have shown a correlation between the activity of the nucleus accumbens and various forms of self-gratification. A research carried out at Harvard University Social Cognitive and Affective Neuscoscience Lab showed that even talking about yourself can lead to a significant activity of the nucleus accumbens.
In our society connected via the Internet, online reputation has become crucial for a lot of people. This new research carried out at the Free University of Berlin has therefore studied the reactions in the brain of people who were shown an increase in their reputation on Facebook or an increase in the reputation of someone else or have received a monetary reward.
The activation of the nucleus accumbens was stronger in participants who received a positive social feedback than those who have received one about other users. The difference was corresponding to the intensity of the use of Facebook by the participants. Instead, no correlation was found with the monetary rewards.
This research doesn’t clarify whether the positive social responses push people to interact on Facebook or the continued use of this or any other social networks modifies the processing of positive feedback in the brain. It would be too easy to say that using Facebook harms us. In the end, it’s just one of many tools many people use to search for gratification. If people are looking for that on the internet that’s because they can’f fiund it in their physical environment.