Your Brain on Social Media

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to host a break out session at a Kennesaw State University’s SoCon social media conference, on ‘Your brain on social media’. The idea for the talk originated from some great discussions with an old high school friend of mine, Noah Echols. Noah works as social media and marketing strategist and called on me once to ‘consult’ with one of his company’s clients on how memory works and why it is so important.  It was a great experience and really got me thinking about how digital technology and social media may be effecting how we remember out lives. Here is the abstract for the break out session:

Humans are social beings. Our need to be connected is related to how our brain evolved and is organized, how we process social information, and how we create our autobiographic selves with memories of our defining experiences. Social networking in everyday life and now online might be at the core of what it is to be human. Our social networks might have structurally shaped our brains across evolution. Work in our non-human primate relatives has shown that the ratio of the size of the thinking part of the brain (the neo-cortex) to that of the rest of the brain consistently increases with increasing social group size. Recently this has been shown to also be true in humans. In addition, with the advent of function MRI, we can now watch the brain at work during social interactions and social inferences. Work in social neuroscience has shown that certain parts of the brain are particularly tuned to social information, in tasks ranging from people being treated fair or unfair to making inferences about someone’s emotion based only on their eyes. Social media might be changing our self-concepts by changing how we remember the important events of our lives. With social media we are now able to document our lives on a daily basis, which changes the mechanisms by which we store the events of our lives into memory. We also strengthen those memories through revisiting the statuses, tweets, pictures, and videos we posted in real time from our lives. Every day, people young and old immerse themselves into their immediate environment and simultaneously in their social network at-large through real-time social media environments. The brain is plastic on many different scales from evolution to everyday experiences; changing as a consequence of what we inherit from our ancestors, how we interact with our social network, and how we build the autobiography of our lives through revisiting our experiences online and sharing our memories with others.

Let me know what you think of these ideas. I’m more and more interested in pursuing them in some format (i.e. book, research, discussions)

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