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Social Media Use is All About You. Er, Me. Or...Human Nature?
By: Christine Geraci
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It appears this whole "social media" thing so much about YOU that it's literally stressing you out. 

I came across these two very interesting articles that, in their own ways, both try to tell us how digitally narcissistic we are. 

One details a study performed by Harvard researchers that found that using social networks triggers areas of the brain associated with reward, thus creating the same pleasure sensations as food, money, and even sex. The study concludes that social networks are so popular because people can't get enough of talking about themselves. In fact, participants in this study so overwhelmingly preferred the opportunity to wax poetic about their own lives that they turned down small monetary rewards to talk about other people. 

In the other study, conducted by ad agency JWT on 19 to 26-year-olds in China, found nearly two-thirds of young people feel increased pressure and stress to maintain social media presences and react to the items their friends post. Social media, they said, used to be "fun," but now it's more of an obligation that gets in the way of everyday life. As a result, Nestle will launch an app called "Social Break" in Singapore that sends random updates to a user's social accounts. 

So, let me get this straight: Disclosing our own life details via social media turns us on, but when we have to pay attention to others doing the same thing, it's too stressful?

Wow, we seem so full of ourselves. Even when we share what others are saying, there's a slight undercurrent of narcissim there, because it's the kind of proper etiquette that makes more people want to like or follow US. 

And let's not even get started on businesses in the social space. These studies basically fuel the fires of disingenuity lapping at the heels of every enterprise trying to make money via social media. 

At the same time, I want to laugh. Researchers at Harvard took a great deal of time and effort to answer the question, "Why are social networks so popular?" With all due respect to Harvard and its researchers, this is kind of a silly question to me. 

Biologically, we need social interaction to survive, right? And the only way we connect with others is by sharing details about ourselves. How else can we establish bonds and common interests? It seems to me this is always going to be true about human beings, whether we use social networks, write emails, meet for coffee in public squares, or gather around fires in the middle of nowhere. 

The methods may be different, but the purpose is the same: Fulfilling our hard-wired needs for interaction.

And yes, I can see how those needs might get a little overwhelming at times (Don't worry, Chinese youth, we in America have similar stresses). 

So after all of that, here's the part where you decide whether or not you want to believe me when I say...

Let me know what you think of these studies. Is social media so popular just because we enjoy being full of ourselves? Do you feel pressure to keep up with your own online social presence?

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About the Author
Christine Geraci is the Social Media/Promotions Specialist at MVP Health Care in Schenectady, NY. Connect with her on Twitter @christinegeraci.
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