It's a fun and fascinating part of my job to dream up of new ways to use social media for communicating and engaging with digital users. And with mobile devices, opportunities for social connecting are infused in every movement and moment. So much so that talk of social media addiction is sometimes greeted with a glazed-eyed blink before those eyes turn back to a Facebook screen.
Obviously, some deep-seated psychological need is being tapped via social media. And of course, Harvard researchers dig up what that is -- oversharing!
In a series of experiments, the researchers found that the act of disclosing information about oneself activates the same sensation of pleasure in the brain that we get from eating food, getting money or having sex. It's all a matter of degrees of course, (talking about yourself isn't quite as pleasurable as sex for most of us), but the science makes it clear that our brain considers self-disclosure to be a rewarding experience.
So perhaps all this explains the confounding behavior of people who over-share on the Internet, even to their detriment. (Think criminals who get arrested after bragging about their crimes on Facebook, the teenage girl whose online venting about her chores led to her dad shooting her laptop, the guy who almost went to jail for complaining about his wife.)
Naturally, the geeks over at the MIT Media Lab have an answer to this -- a Pavlov Poke, a device that delivers an electric shock when you visit your favorite social media site too often. To reinforce the message repeatedly -- without frying you too much -- they also pay someone to cuss you out when you overindulge: "Workers call your number and then yell at you, reading from a pre-written script designed to be maximally humiliating."
The MIT geeks are also wary about Google Glass:
I don’t want to try Glass until I know I can manage its potentially addictive properties. The last thing I want is to have to build a shock device that’s hooked up around my eyeballs.
So, what do you do to keep your social media habits in line? Quick! Overshare with me (and the world) on Twitter and Facebook now… :-)