The Null Device

"No-one likes you"

Scientists have found the brain centre connected to social rejection. when a person suffers some form of social exclusion (is excluded from a group, ostracised by the cool kids at school, divorced, rejected by a date, &c), their anterior cingulate cortex is stimulated; this is the same part of the brain that responds to physical pain.
This suggests that the need to be accepted as part of a social group is as important to humans as avoiding other types of pain, she said. Just as an infant may learn to avoid fire by first being burned, humans may learn to stick together because rejection causes distress in the pain center of the brain, said Eisenberger.

I wonder whether the pain of social exclusion is not related to withdrawal symptoms from substances such as nicotine or heroin; that is, whether or not social interaction triggers neurochemicals that are addictive. People have been addicted to all sorts of activities, from risk-taking to sex; could it be that we're all social-interaction junkies from birth?

Another question this raises is that of substitutes for social inclusion that keep the same happy chemicals flowing without needing to actually have a social life; for example, internet chat rooms, multi-user roleplaying games (in which people have experienced serious attachment to virtual characters), even long-distance "romances", could be a way of "masturbating" the social-inclusion parts of the brain without the need for real social interaction. Perhaps that's one of the end goals of AI: to produce software that can pass the Turing test and provide simulated social interaction for instant-gratification-dependent cube-hermits without enough time in their high-speed, information-overloaded lives to develop real relationships with other people.

There are 2 comments on ""No-one likes you"":

Posted by: monde Sun Oct 12 12:03:22 2003

What is a "real relationship"? Let's not confuse "face to face" with "real" here. I've known some people who've been married for years and know nothing of each others' psyches, and I have seen chat relationships get very deep, intense and beatiful at times. Not all internet people are fake pdersonas. I am called Monde offline and online. I don't fake anything online. I know some folks do, but I see little point.

Posted by: acb Sun Oct 12 17:01:25 2003

Your relationship with someone is governed by your perception of them. Online, the only thing you have to go by is what they tell you, what they post to Usenet/mailing lists/their website, and so on. In real life, you receive much more information about them that they do not control (by seeing them in social situations).

Another way of looking at this is that your knowledge of another person is an approximation of that person from limited information. The best approximation you can have online is several orders of magnitude less accurate than real life.

Which is why intense online relationships have more in common with delusional psychoses than with healthy relationships.