Can’t stop talking about yourself on Facebook? Your brain may be wired differently, say scientists.
In the first study to examine the intrinsic functional connectivity of the brain in relation to social media use, researchers observed connectivity between regions of the brain previously established to play a role in self-cognition in 35 participants. They also found a network of brain regions involved in self-disclosure on Facebook.
Researchers focused on the medial prefrontal cortex and the precuneus — two cortical midline regions that are recruited when thinking about oneself.
“Human beings like to share information about themselves. In today’s world, one way we’re able to share self-related information is by using social media platforms like Facebook,” said lead author Dar Meshi, a postdoctoral researcher at the Freie Universitat Berlin (Free University of Berlin) in Germany. Facebook was used in the study because people post information about their thoughts, feelings and opinions, as well as pictures and videos of themselves.
All subjects completed a Self-Related Sharing Scale to determine how frequently each subject posted pictures of themselves, updated their profile information and status. The participants were selected to vary widely in their Self-Related Sharing Scale scores.
Researchers recorded functional neuroimaging (fMRI) data while subjects were allowed to let their mind wander — subjects did not perform an explicit task. They then analysed the connectivity within each participant’s brain to determine a relationship between brain connectivity and Self-Related Sharing Scale score across participants.
Results showed that participants who share more about themselves on Facebook had greater connectivity of both the medial prefrontal cortex and precuneus to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. There was also greater connectivity between the precuneus and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex. “Our study reveals a network of brain regions involved in the sharing of self-related information on social media,” said Meshi.
“These findings extend our present knowledge of functional brain connectivity, specifically linking brain regions previously established to function in self-referential cognition to regions indicated in the cognitive process of self-disclosure,” he said. The researchers point out that the implications of their research are broad and lay the foundation for future scientific investigation into self-disclosure.
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.