Adam Penenberg, writer of Viral Loop, interviewed Paul J. Zak aka Dr. Love. Dr. Love studes “neuroeconomics” and has discovered that social media, especially fast-moving streams like Twitter, flood our brains with oxytocin, the “hug hormone” that makes us feel empathy and, more important, makes us feel good.
In a number of test cases, the most important involving Penenberg tweeting about “overweight tourists in Speedos,” the hug hormone spiked and stress went down. Twitter, in a sense, is like taking a fat drag on a good cigarette or a eating a sleeve of Thin Mints. As Penenberg tweeted, they measured his hormonal levels with surprising results:
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. Meanwhile, stress hormones cortisol and ACTH went down 10.8% and 14.9%, respectively. Zak explains that the results are linked, that the release of oxytocin I experienced while tweeting reduced my stress hormones.
You can read the entire article here but for those in need of a quick social media fix, they also have a video interview for your edification.
The interesting question is this: if companies are able to interact with us on social networks, are they actually dosing us with drugs? And what happens when we adamantly don’t trust an organization? Would their tweets (“Retweet #BPCares to win a free chocolate turtle!”) induce rage hormones? The potential is frightening. I’d better go Tweet this to calm down.