Full disclosure more pleasurable to Facebook users

Apparently, sharing daily events on social media networks has a more deep-seated meaning beyond the simple urge to announce your own immediate experience.

Researchers at Harvard recently performed a study that attempted to determine why social media users were so inclined to post their every thought, feeling, location, etc.

They found that disclosing such information releases the same pleasure sensations we get from eating food, getting money or having sex - i.e. there is a similar endorphin rush to telling the world that you got a new computer, you're going on vacation or even what kind of breakfast you had in the morning. It seems that any sort of self-disclosure is seen as a rewarding experience - however, this feeling diminishes with a person knows that their thoughts won't be spread to the masses.

"We didn't know if self-disclosure was rewarding because you get to think about yourself and thinking about yourself is rewarding, or if it is important to have an audience," said lead researcher Diana Tamir.

Using MRI images to view test subjects' reward sensation brain region (the nucleus accumbens and the ventral tegmental area), researchers compared results of when respondents were told their thoughts would be broadcast to friends and family, versus when they were told they were being kept private. As expected, reward sensation decreased when people knew nobody would be listening.

Tamir also watched patients' brain activity when they answered questions about their own opinions and when they were asked to answer questions about others'. Similarly, the reward-associated brain regions were more engaged when people were talking about themselves.

"When you look at the neural regions generally associated with rewards like money or sex or food, those same regions seemed to respond more robustly when people were engaging in self disclosure than when they were not," Tamir noted.

And this behavior wasn't limited to more talkative people.

"You might think that gregarious people are more highly rewarded, but shy people also like to share their thoughts," Tamir added.

A semi-related study was recently conducted by the University of Bergen in Norway to analyze if Facebook truly can become an addiction, comparing usage rates between females and males, as well as different age ranges.

Researchers found that younger people tended to be more "addicted" then older users, while those who are more socially insecure typically use Facebook more. Finally, women were more at risk to developing an addiction than men, but only due to the social nature of the network.