Tag Archives: Facebook

Why posting to Facebook feels so good

Baby faceEver wonder why it feels so good to share information on Facebook or Twitter? A new study by two Harvard-based psychologists found that these status updates the same pleasure centres in the brain activated by eating a delicious meal, shopping or having sex.

Ooooh. This explains a lot.

And while posting your party pictures or tweeting your lunch choices may not hit quite the same pleasurable high notes as sexual activity (for most people), it does explain a recent survey of Internet use that show 80% of social media posts are simply announcements about one’s own immediate experience.

Part of the study involved MRI imaging of test subjects to observe brain activity as they answered questions about their’s and other’s opinions. Researchers found that the brain regions associated with reward — the nucleus accumbens and the ventral tegmental area  — were very active when people were talking about themselves, and less engaged when they were talking about someone else.

In one interesting twist, the researchers also found that participants would turn down money to talk about someone else, in order to enjoy the more pleasurable sensation of talking about themselves. In the second part of the study, they set out to determine how important it was to people to have someone listening to their self-disclosure:

“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,” Tamir said.

As anyone with 700 Facebook friends might have guessed, the researchers found greater reward activity in the brains of people when they got to share their thoughts with a friend or family member, and less of a reward sensation when they were told their thoughts would be kept private.

What does this mean for our kids? Since we already know that the reward centre in the developing teenage brain is more active than in adults’ brains, we can see how it would be even harder for kids to control their impulses to share everything with everyone. All the time. Similar work by Laurence Steinberg at Temple University found that teenagers doing a simulated driving test took more risks — and had greatly increased activity in the reward centre of their brain — when they thought other teens were watching them.

It also makes it clearer how much harder it would be for them to exercise their still-emerging good judgement, since research on the teenage brain shows good judgement and impulse control are among the last parts of the brain to develop. As this Wall Street Journal article put it: “If you think of the teenage brain as a car, today’s adolescents acquire an accelerator a long time before they can steer and brake.”

All of this means we need to work a little bit harder with our kids (and ourselves) to figure out appropriate limits on self-disclosure. Do they really need their 800 Facebook friends to know about a fight with their boyfriend, or how wasted they were over the weekend? Are they sharing details that may prove embarrassing to them next year? In 20 years? Let’s try to help them find other, safer ways to achieve the pleasure of self-disclosure, such as through actual face-to-face conversations with trusted friends or family members (I KNOW. That’s just crazy!). But knowing what’s behind it all gives us a good head start on finding workable solutions.


Things that make you go “hmmmm”

In my travels across the web, I come across some interesting articles about kids, technology, pop culture and high-risk activities. This post offers a selection of the stuff that caught my attention this past week, including stuff on Facebook, bullying, digital skills, eating disorders and risky behaviors in general.

In sharing these articles, I’m not necessarily endorsing them. Some offer compelling new research, but numbers can often be twisted to say what we want them to say. In reporting these statistics, the media often forgets that simple correlation does not necessarily imply causality. However interesting they are, it’s always helpful to maintain a critical perspective. One way or another, all of these pieces made me go “hmmmm….”

Schoolchildren can use an iPhone but cannot tie their shoelaces, poll finds

MANY schoolchildren are more confident using a DVD player or iPhone than tying their shoelaces, research claims.
As many as 45 per cent of children aged between five and 13 can’t tie their shoe laces – but 67 per cent can work a DVD player, according to a poll.
The study showed a large proportion can log on to the internet, play on computer games, use an iPhone or iPad and work satellite television services like Sky Plus.
But 65 per cent can’t make a cup of tea, while 81 per cent can’t read a map and 87 per cent wouldn’t be able to repair a bicycle puncture.
(Read the full article here.)

Teen sues over Facebook bullying

A teenager in Georgia has decided to take things into her own hands after her school and police said they could do nothing about the classmates bullying her on Facebook.
Fourteen-year-old Alex Boston and her parents are filing suit against two classmates and their parents for libel after the two classmates allegedly created a fake Facebook account in her name, using a photo of her that they distorted. The account was also used to post a racist video to YouTube that implied that Boston hated African-Americans, and to leave crude comments on the Facebook pages of other friends, suggesting she was sexually active and smoked marijuana.

(Read the full article here.)

American Teens: Live Fast, Die Hard

The teenage years should come with a warning label:  Being an American teen may case early death.
At least, that’s the gist of a new study published in the British medical Journal “Lancet.” The study of teenage behavior in developed, higher income countries, indicates that U.S. teens tend to live faster and die harder than kids of the same age in other countries.
Americans between the ages of 10 and 24, smoke more pot, drink nearly as much alcohol and are more likely to die violent deaths, compared to young people in the same age group around the globe.

(Read the full article here.)

Beyond anorexia, bulimia: Lesser known eating disorders

For decades, the eating disorder lexicon had two main entries: anorexia and bulimia. But modern research reveals that these fall woefully short of encompassing the many facets of disordered eating. In the early ’90s, the American Psychiatric Association introduced a new diagnostic category: eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS). A catch-all label that includes dozens of subdiagnoses, EDNOS applies to patients who don’t meet the exact criteria for anorexia or bulimia but still have very troubled relationships with food or distorted body images. Today, EDNOS diagnoses significantly outnumber anorexia and bulimia cases. “The atypical has become the typical,” says Ovidio Bermudez, M.D.

(Read the full article here.)



Facebook’s “Download Your Information” feature lets you see what you’ve shared

Remember when you first joined Facebook? Was it in the early days, as a university student? After 2006, when anyone was allowed to join? Or maybe last year, when your 12-year-old decided to get online and you figured you’d better learn about it so you can know what he’s doing?

If you’ve been a regular user of Facebook, you’ve probably uploaded lots of information over time: photos, status updates, links to interesting or funny websites, check-ins at different places. Perhaps you’ve liked certain brands or become a fan of different pages. Have you ever poked anyone? Played Words with Friends or Farmville or ticked off places you’ve visited in the Top 100 Places to See Before you Die? Did you ever list 25 random things about yourself, or write a mysterious one-word update about the colour of your bra to “raise awareness about breast cancer?”

Yeah, I’ve done some most of those things too.

A lot of it I’ve forgotten over the few years I’ve been on Facebook. But now my kids are online as well, and although I monitor their newsfeeds with them and set their privacy controls, I also know how easy it is to lose track of what you’ve shared. And I figure other parents and educators might be interested in this as well. As the Facebook information page explains, having a copy of your information is an important part of controlling what you share. Sort of like Googling yourself every once in a while, this kind of second self monitoring exercise is part of the new normal in a digital age.

Downloading your information is useful not just for monitoring some of the naughty stuff our kids may have been up to, but is particularly useful as an exercise to see just how much of ourselves we put online. What’s included? All your status updates, posts and photos. Your friend list. RSVP’s to posted event. Comments others have made on your wall and your postings. Notes you created. Your sent and received messages. Your contact information, interests, groups, pages you’ve liked.

What isn’t included are comments you made on others’ walls and posts.

How do you know others can’t download your information? Facebook requires you to enter your account password during the request (even though you are already logged in) and then sends an email to you to confirm the request a second time.

Be aware that there can be a long lag between the request, the confirmation email and receiving the actual file. In my case, it took about 45 minutes for me to receive the confirmation email and then immediately download the files (which comes compressed, so you will need WinZip or an equivalent program to unzip it). But I’ve seen complaints from those online who said it took several days or never arrived.

So how do you do it? It’s pretty easy actually, though Facebook continues to change what information you will get and how long it will take for the file to be sent to you.

Start by going to your Account Settings. You can access this from the upper right hand corner of your page, by clicking on the arrow.

Account Information





Next, scroll down to the bottom of the screen where it has a hyperlink that says “Download your information.”

Download your information





You have the choice of downloading an expanded archive (which includes IP login addresses, password changes, who you’ve “poked,” etc.). I figure once you are downloading an archive, why not get all the information Facebook has on you? No disadvantage to choosing this option, but be aware it comes as a separate zipped file that doesn’t include the status updates, photos, etc. So if you are interested in everything, you have to do both. If you want to know more, Expanded Archiveclick on the above link for a full list of what additional information you can get.

Try it out. You might find it’s a pleasant walk through your activities of the time you’ve been on Facebook. And you might find some photos, status updates or comments you want to scrub from your profile. It’s an exercise we all need to do every once in a while.