Today, when you update your social media status as you wait behind an SUV the size of a mastodon, and announce to the world of the boiling impatience over your obstructed attempt to order that “Grande, Quad, Nonfat, One-Pump, No-Whip, Mocha,” you are only living out the string that’s hardwired in your DNA.
Ever since the first caveman grabbed a sharpened stone and scrawled an image of himself slaying a wooly beast, man (and woman) has wanted to record his accomplishments for others to see.
“Disclosing information about the self is intrinsically rewarding” is the title of a Harvard psychology study that states “humans devote 30-40 percent of speech output solely to informing others of their own subjective experiences.” The study further revealed that “upwards of 80 percent of posts to social media sites (such as Twitter) consist simply of announcements about one’s own immediate experiences.”
The 2013 research found that when humans disclose information about their lives it stimulates the same part of the brain that fires when getting paid, consuming a favorite food or even having sex.
Understanding the science behind the behavior makes perfect sense why Urkh stood beside the cave fire making shadow puppets of his exploits or why 1.23 billion people are on Facebook (as of 1/29/14, expandedramblings.com) or why Twitter has 243 million active users (as of 2/5/14, expandedramblings.com).
The reason is simple: We want to be in the game and, if not in it directly, then at least part of it. e.g., the 2.4 million people who retweeted Ellen’s selfie at the
Oscars (as of 3/5/14, Twitter.com).
Another side of the self(ie)
While technology allows us to broadcast ourselves to the world if we so choose, it can come at the expense of those within arm’s reach. When I eat out, I take an inventory of people around me. Until the smartphone era dawned, I never knew so well what the tops of people’s heads looked like. Through the law of evolutionary adaptation, eventually our mouths will move above our eyes so we can tweet and whatnot while talking, unobtrusively, to our “loved” ones.
While I’ve gathered a bushel of stones to cast, I am not above the fray as much as I’d like; sometimes, it seems impossible to embrace the Luddite way.
Here’s a too-often seen interplay between my nine-year-old and me at the home office while I’m immersed in the infinite addiction of checking messages on my iPhone.
Et tu, Da Da?
Nine-year-old: Dad, you want to go outside and kick the soccer ball?
Dad: In a minute.
[59 seconds later]
Nine-year-old [now with soccer ball under arm]: Dad, you ready?
Dad: Let me finish this one email.
[Room fills with patter of soccer ball being kneed, kicked and head-butted]
Dad: One more minute?
[Fifteen minutes later Dad looks up to find himself alone with an iPhone and a soccer ball.]
This week, I’m going off the grid.
We’re hitting the beach for spring break.
I’m going to keep the phone in airplane mode.
We’ll body surf and build sand castles.
Ooh, but first I’ve got to copy that last section and get it out for the world to consume. It’s under 140 characters and would make the perfect tweet.