Rewards of self-disclosure can distract


Editor’s note: For the next 11 weeks the Scroll will feature an exclusive story about an issue on campus that many of our fellow students may be struggling with.

It can be as easy as a subconscious click of a mouse or a mindless touch of an LCD screen—how did you get onto that social media site again?

Many social media users seem to operate on autopilot when it comes to adding to the online social buzz. And let’s face it: talking about ourselves can be highly stimulating.

A March 2012 study at Harvard University determined that self-disclosure available through social media offers the brain rewards similar to those received from food and sex.

Is it any wonder that we can’t seem to stop the narcissistic chatter? Or stop checking to see who’s responding?

Harvard researchers found that people spend between 30 and 40 percent of their conversations talking about themselves. And with the rise of social media across the globe, the audience for those conversations is growing exponentially.

Social media allows users to inform hundreds of followers at once about an dated relationship status or to complain about the latest three inches of snow. With a captive audience like that, validation can be as close as one red notification box.

“We are getting artificial reinforcement for it,” said Colton Miller, a psychologist at the BYU-Idaho counseling center. “If someone likes what we post … or retweets one of our tweets, we think ‘Oh my gosh! I said something so important they must like me.’”

Though our brain receives these interactions as rewards, Miller said we must use caution because of their artificial nature.

Facebook reports that the average user has more than 100 Facebook friends. And for 84 percent of all 1 billion active users, that number is higher than their non-cyber friend count.

Some BYU-I students are no exception.

The average social media-ite may spend about 98 minutes per month on Pinterest and seven hours per month on Facebook, according to Some college students said they fit the norm.

Take Rebecca Bori, a sophomore studying nursing, for example. Bori unabashedley shared her love for social media, but said she is losing the battle of blocking social media from her busy student life.

“It’s ser distracting because I want to see what everyone is doing and what people are saying,” she said.

Bori said the temptation is often too great, especially while doing homework on her computer with a tab that easily connects her to Facebook.

While yielding to temptation can happen as fast as repinning a meme of the grumpy cat, Bori, and many other students are creating their own ways to resist.

Some methods of moderation include planning specific times to check social media, or limiting visits to once a day.

Let’s face it. Most people aren’t by definition addicted to social media. But the pull to check and re-check who’s talking about us can be tantalizing.

“Where does [social media] become a concern? When it interferes with daily living and social relationships. When it becomes a priority over the people in your life,” Miller said.

Perhaps somewhere in those 405 minutes spent a month scrolling down the Facebook home page, students can find some time for moderation.

'Rewards of self-disclosure can distract' have 5 comments

  1. January 23, 2013 @ 4:48 pm MichaelSessions

    Social media is a part of life just like anything else- use it wisely and there won’t even be an issue.


  2. January 24, 2013 @ 11:04 am clurker

    spot on


  3. January 24, 2013 @ 12:04 pm Samantha Louise Shelley

    So true. It’s sad that people get a high from “artificial reinforcement” instead of actual positive reinforcement/validation. I feel like that trend is destroying self-worth in people, as well as their ability to feel socially confident in real life.


  4. January 24, 2013 @ 1:29 pm Yolita Salazar

    I think its interesting to read some of the reasons why people use social media more often. Its also interesting that facebook now allows you to promote certain things, which allows an easier access to individual media advertising.


  5. January 24, 2013 @ 2:00 pm Mike Hopkins

    Concurring with what has been said, I think there’s also a positive value to the findings. There have been times where there are activities, conversations or other interactions that started because I typed up a text or comment and then clicked send. There’s no going back. It takes care of that 5 seconds of courage that leads to good things happening.

    However, not all my interactions of that nature happen through social media or electronic means (in fact, the vast majority don’t) but I still think there’s some esteem-building power in being able to begin a road of self-confidence by making social media decisions.


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