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Oxytocin and Social Networking

This article is interesting, though its title, “Social Networking Affects Brains Like Falling in Love,” should have a question mark at the end, since the experiment (with Twitter) was a simple one-off.

I’d be very curious to see studies of people who use Social Media professionally. (Like, say, someone like pro SF authors twittering like mad at a science fiction convention, or low-level political candidates using Twitter.)

I’d also be very curious to see how mediated interaction works compared to non-mediated interaction — how much difference in oxytocin do we see in couples talking on the phone a few hours a day while separated by a large distance, compared to the same couples living in the same place and interacting the same amount of time each day?

Another case I’d like to look at would be cross-cultural comparisons. How much do one’s acculturated expectations of touch affect oxytocin levels? Korea’s opening up now, but in the old days, it was quite common for couples not to hold hands in public. One wonders whether, in such a social climate, violation of those rules would boost oxytocin levels — since it’s more “touch” than normal — or whether the perceived increase might be dampened by other neurochemicals, especially stress-related ones.

Also, in Korea, norms of touch are still somewhat different from in the west, in that same-gender touching is far less of a trigger of anxiety or discomfort here. (I must say I rarely see guys, even teenaged boys, holding hands now, but down in the south — which is something akin to saying, way back in the old days, for the particular process of modernization Korea and Seoul has undergone — I used to see drunk buddies holding hands, and women holding hands with their female friends was extremely common, back around the turn of the century.)

While I’m sure intersex touch — even of a non-sexual nature — is likely (in the average — that is, for a predominantly heterosexual population) to trigger a whole slew of different chemical reactions in the brain than intrasex touch (again, for straight people), I’m curious about how much the gender of those in the touch-pair impacts the oxytocin yield, as well as how much cultural constructions of the norms of touch might modify those effects.

Of course, the only study I turned up with a Korean context doesn’t even mention oxytocin (in the abstract, anyway), just the touch, voice, and visual stimulation of orphaned infants and corresponding better rates of health and development.

You know who they should do a study of oxytocin levels for? Those Free Hugs kids that one still sometimes sees in Seoul, or used to… I haven’t seen them in a while, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. (Are they?)

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