5 Ways Social Media Changes Your Brain

We know that social media changes the way we interact with each other and our shared awkward moments. But, all of that has to start with the way our tweets and 'grams are modifying our brains. In its most recent video, AsapSCIENCE explains how.
First off, we're obsessed. And, a study from 2012 suggests that our Internet addiction is changing the amount of myelinated white matter of our brains. That's the cortical matter that's insulated for faster transmission of messages between brain areas. A reduction of this matter could result in a reduction of brain function, specifically in decision-making and what's called "executive control." So, yeah, pretty essential. Here, 17 people with Internet addiction disorder and 16 control subjects (all aged 14-24) underwent diffusion tensor imaging, which provides a representation of neuronal connections in the brain. The results showed that the patients had significantly reduced amounts of white matter in key areas of their brains compared to the non-addicted controls.
And, no, it's not just you — there's now research to back up the existence of phantom vibration syndrome. In a 2012 study, 290 undergraduate participants were asked about how often they feel the phantom vibrations and how bothersome the subjects found them. Results showed that 89% of the sample experienced phantom vibrations at some point, and 40% of those people felt them at least once per week. Hilariously, we've become so accustomed to these occurrences that 91% of the participants reported being only a little bit bothered or not bothered at all by them. Accordingly, they made almost no attempts to stop them. The authors suggest the vibrations might just be itches or muscle twitches, but we've begun to interpret them as something much more important to us: texts.
Despite what you think about switching between Twitter and actual work, a 2009 study shows just what a toll that's taking on our ability to get stuff done. In a series of three experiments, the researchers first identified the degree to which participants were media multitaskers (how much they routinely engage in media while also engaging in other media). Those who multitasked more performed worse on an environmental distractor filtering task than those who were low-level media multitaskers.
But, it's certainly not all bad news. "While the Internet has changed our verbal communication with increased physical separation," the video says, "perhaps the [relationships] that matter the most, end up even closer." We'll tweet to that.

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