Penn State researchers say social media opens up new ways for people to connect, and also forces our brains to adapt to a form of communication it was not designed for. For one thing, when most people meet someone new they often feel a need to “reduce uncertainty” about that person, which is usually done by interacting directly with the person, asking others about the person, or by observing the person interact with others.
Social media makes it possible for us to gather a lot of information about someone very quickly, as we can see someone’s “personal beliefs, friends and acquaintances, and photographs.” In addition, social media removes one’s ability to pick up nonverbal cues that we’d normally get from in-person interaction, but researchers say people have adapted to compensate for this by asking more direct questions and disclosing more information about themselves when communicating with a stranger online.
Researcher Bu Zhong adds,
We used to talk about media literacy, and now I think we need to expand that to social media literacy. With how much social media can affect the brain, it’s important to be able to understand and take control of how social media is affecting you.