Social Media Increases “Cuddle” Chemical Production in the Brain [STUDY]
Sometimes referred to as the “cuddle” chemical, oxytocin — a hormone produced in the brain — stimulates feelings of trust and security, reduces anxiety levels and may even produce positive sexual side effects. It sounds like a miracle drug, so how does one get their hands on it? Perhaps, simply by tweeting.
Fast Company contributing writer Adam Penenberg volunteered to be a test subject in Dr. Paul J. Zak’s “neuroeconomics” research efforts to “gauge the relationship between empathy and generosity.”
Penenberg’s detailed recounting of the experience is a fascinating description of three experiments designed to determine the relationship between social media and oxytocin. In experiment number three, Penenberg’s blood levels were monitored while he was tweeting via TweetDeck on his laptop.
The results from this single study were quite astounding. Penenberg writes, “In those 10 minutes between blood batches one and two, my oxytocin levels spiked 13.2%. That’s equivalent to the hormonal spike experienced by the groom at the wedding Zak attended.”
The results showed that not only did Penenberg’s oxytocin levels spike while tweeting, but his stress hormones significantly declined during the observation period. Zak concluded that Penenberg’s brain, “interpreted tweeting as if you were directly interacting with people you cared about or had empathy for.”
This oxytocin research effort is by no means conclusive given the single test subject, but it does seem to back up what most already know about social media: It makes us feel good. At least now there appears to be a scientific explanation for why this happens.