Please excuse any errors as I wrote this in a rush and was distracted by social media…
In a fun article published in the magazine Fast Company, journalist Adam Penenberg submitted to being a human guinea pig for neuroeconomist Paul Zak’s social networking experiment.
And the result was more than interesting.
Adam had his blood levels tested for Oxytocin (not Oxycontin, the addicting painkiller) which is called the “love” hormone because it stimulates empathy, generosity and trust.
He also tested his stress hormones cortisol and ACTH tested.
Then Adam spent some time tweeting...
Ten minutes later Zak had his blood tested again. And the result was that Adam’s level of Oxytocin increased by 13.2%. As Adam writes, “that’s equivalent to the hormonal spike experienced by the groom at the wedding Zak attended.”
Even more interesting to me is that the stress hormones cortisol and ACTH went down 10.8% and 14.9%, respectively. That is pretty significant.
Too much trust…
I am not going to get into the mechanisms of why this is happening. (Dr. Zak explains more in the article that I link to below.)
But what I do want to talk about is this trust thing. If social networking increases a hormone that makes us trust too much, then we might be as vulnerable online as we are at the back of the room at a Tony Robbins’ seminar.
For example, a recent study by the Ponemon Institute revealed that almost 90% of social media users believe that social media sites pose no risk even though 60% weren’t sure the social media could even protect their identities!
And 44% would use these sites even if they were sure the site could NOT protect their identities!
Here are some more fun findings:
*Approximately 65 percent of users do not set high privacy or security settings in their social media sites.
*Approximately 40 percent of all respondents share their physical home address through social media applications.
Sounds like a little too much trust to me! Could it be that the hormonal effects just make us immune to critical thinking?
Stress and connection
On the flip side, if connecting with people through social media reduces our stress levels, then it could be very good for our health as stress is the silent killer.
It is kind of ironic. Technology seems to be the source of a lot of isolation. And then social media comes to the rescue and provides a whole new way to connect.
This new remote way of connecting seems to do the trick if Dr. Zak’s results can be replicated on a larger scale.
Save the children
On a related note, neuroscientist Susan Greenfield believes that social media is literally changing the brains of young users. She believes that they: shorten attention spans, encourage instant gratification, and make young people more self-centered.
More from Dr. Greenfield:
My fear is that these technologies are infantilizing the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.
Funny, that kind of sounds like me.
So where is this all going?
Based on the latest developments in neuro-technology, Emotiv has developed a revolutionary new personal interface for human computer interaction. The Emotiv EPOC is a high resolution, neuro-signal acquisition and processing wireless neuroheadset. It uses a set of sensors to tune into electric signals produced by the brain to detect player thoughts, feelings and expressions and connects wirelessly to most PCs