Those of us involved in social media know that people love to talk about themselves. They seemingly enjoy sharing the trivial, the personal, and occasionally the weird, details of their lives. Sometimes they overshare – as a longtime online community builder, I’ve found that “poster’s remorse” is common – people post something too personal and later regret doing so. So why do people share so much? New research from Harvard shows, in simple terms, that talking about yourself makes your brain feel good.

Several experiments recorded brain activity in an fMRI machine while subjects talked about themselves. The researchers found that “mesolimbic dopamine system,” generally thought to be part of the brain’s reward system, was activated at higher levels during self-disclosure than when discussing other topics.

More Than a Penny for Your Thoughts

If the brain scan result isn’t surprising enough, a behavioral experiment found that subjects would accept smaller payments for talking about themselves when compared to other topics. When payment amounts were equal, the subjects chose to talk about themselves more than two thirds of the time.

In short, we all seem to be wired for self-disclosure. Some of us may be more attuned to giving out personal information than others (eliciting responses of “too much information!”), but the general tendency explains in part why online communities and social networks like Facebook and Twitter keep adding not only new users but massive quantities of user-generated content. If our brains didn’t reward self-disclosure, it’s unlikely Facebook would be the runaway success they are, or be worth upwards of $90 billion. Blame our brains.

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