Do we ever stop and wonder how we satisfied our brain’s natural cravings for social engagement with others before the arrival of social media? Why is it a phenomenon that we have accepted so quickly and engrained into our lives so completely?
The answer lies in science and our brain’s history of evolution. Leading psychologist Professor Bruce Hood who is author of the new book “Domesticated Brain” says that brain sizes peaked around 20,000 years ago. From this time our brains started to get smaller which he thinks makes us more likely to gossip! Confused?
He goes on to explain that since the evolution of man our brains were getting bigger. Our predecessors were in a constant state of ‘survival mode’ and were always geared up ready for battle thus over countless generations the brain size increased.
However, that growth hit a wall around 20,000 years ago and then the pattern started to reverse and our brains started shrinking. Professor Bruce believes this is down to our increased domestication. We are no longer in fear for our lives or are on constant alert for threats. We even have the luxury of supermarkets and shops so in essence our survival has become much easier. So now we crave more stimulation from engagement with others and are “natural gossips”.
The American academic, Bruce, says that social media allows us to indulge this urge on a larger scale and in his book states:
“The fact that many people have a compulsion to engage with lots of people via social media isn’t really that surprising, our brains have evolved for us to be social animals”.
“What’s interesting is that you might assume that the wider exposure to differing views that social media brings would make us all much more open-minded.
“What we see in reality of course is the opposite. People seem more likely to slot into niche groups of thought online than in real life.”
He says that as people settled into fixed communities their brains relaxed as they did not need to outwit everyone around them, which opened up opportunities for higher thinking.
This also marked the beginning of “group intelligence” in which knowledge is learned and then passed down and inherited through the generations.