Social media platforms are engineered to activate the reward centers in our brains, motivating us to repeat an activity that makes us feel good over and over again. The kind of social media platform we choose to use is critical to whether we create positive or negative habits in our lives.
The problem is that the reward centers of the brain that push us to form habits aren’t able to distinguish between useful habits and destructive habits.
So how can we leverage the brain’s reward centers to create a more positive habit? Ideally, we create a positive habit that not only makes us feel good, but also makes the world a better place.
How to Get a Healthier High from Doing Good
Here at Sahoja, we believe that we can turn our social media use into a positive activity by focusing on giving. Because, as it turns out, there’s a growing body of research suggesting that donating to charities and helping people in other meaningful ways, such as volunteering, is not only good for the world, but also good for the giver.
As Jenny Santi, the author of The Giving Way To Happiness: Stories and Science Behind The Power of Giving notes in this article, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Oregon found that “the areas of the brain that release the pleasure chemical dopamine unexpectedly lit up” when subjects decided to donate to a food bank. That’s one of the reasons why “it feels so good to help others.”
On a related note, according to this post on Cornell University’s Evidence-Based Living blog: “Neuropsychological research shows that donating to charity activates neural activity in areas of the brain that are linked to reward processing—the same areas that are activated by pleasures like eating.”
A “Warm Glow” for Social Media
In fact, back in the 1980s, an economist named James Andreoni coined a term called “warm-glow giving.” As Santi explains, this is “the positive emotional feeling people get from helping others.” Researchers from the National Institutes of Health led a small study showing that two reward systems in the brain light up when subjects made a charitable donation. Co-author Jorge Moll told Stanti that the study “strongly supports the existence of ‘warm glow’ at a biological level. It helps convince people that doing good can make them feel good.”
“Their experiment provided the first evidence that the joy of giving has a biological basis in the brain,” Santi writes.
It is that biological basis for the joy of giving that we at Sahoja are bringing to social media. We believe that, when we work together, we are stronger and that together we can change the world. Sahoja is a social media platform about positive sharing and incentivizing positive habits.