This is your brain on Facebook

A couple of weeks ago, a Facebook friend of mine posted:

“Getting my teeth cleaned”

He wasn’t kidding I don't think. That was his post. The comment chain after his post made it clear that he was at the dentist or on his way there. He’s a writer and a comedian; he’s a funny guy so maybe he was being ironic. Or something. Or maybe we’ve finally reached the point in our culture where every sliver of our lives gets its nanosecond of fame.

Remember how the Internet was going to be The Information Superhighway? The world’s cumulative knowledge a mouse click away. Sadly, it’s turned out to be more like the Too Much Information Superhighway: every little shred of even the slightest tidbit that could be considered pertinent sliced paper thin, served up, and examined.

Want to see a selfie of Anthony Weiner’s wiener? Yeah, me neither but there it is anyway. Share. How ‘bout a picture of my dog napping on the couch? Share. Or my dinner? Share. My peddy? Share, share, share. I guess it’s difficult to know where to draw the line. Sometimes I’m interested in the little “life” things my Facebook acquaintances want to share with everyone in their corner of the web: their kids’ graduation shots or the progress of their diet.

A cellphone close-up of the imported beer you just ordered or an update on your dental hygiene? Not so much. It’s bad enough I have to scroll through shots of people posing under the Eifel Tower or at Universal Studios, making me feel poor. Or see that someone more exciting than me is “checking in” at the Vancouver airport or the Honolulu Hyatt.

dopamine-brain1But scientists think they’ve discovered why everyone’s so eager to share— we get off on it. According to a not-so-new study, talking about yourself, good or bad, sparks activity in the Primary Reward Center smack dab in the middle of your brain. That’s the part of your brain that releases dopamine, the chemical that gives you pleasure when you win money or have sex or do drugs.

Researchers say this is most likely why four out of five posts on Facebook are about the user’s immediate experiences. Four out of five! Basically, everyone’s using Facebook to get high. It’s their dopamine delivery system.

So next time a Facebook friend shares a picture of the slab of raw meat he’s about to slap on the grill, he’s just taking a big toke on his digital bong. Of course, if you click “like” you might as well be his pusher.

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