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Here's why you're probably on Facebook right now

Chances are you found this article because you were bored and skimming through Facebook.

Don’t feel bad. People check Facebook when they’re bored because humans have an innate interest to feel like they’re social even when they’re not, according to a new study from the University of California Los Angeles.

The study said our brains prepare us for social interactions when we’re bored. Specifically, the brain constantly makes us think about other people and how to “see the world through a social lens,” even when we’re bored and alone, according to Matthew Lieberman, a UCLA professor of psychology.

“The brain has a major system that seems predisposed to get us ready to be social in our spare moments,” Lieberman said in a press release. “The social nature of our brains is biologically based.”

Researchers found this connection by showing photos with captions to the study’s 21 participants and tracking their brain activity. The photos showed people in social settings expressing certain emotions and were accompanied by captions, like “he is feeling bored” or “she is looking to her side.” Participants judged whether the caption accurately described the photo. The study also showed participants math equations.

In some cases, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex part of the brain — which affects our decision-making, personality expressions and social behaviors — was active during a rest period right before the study participants looked at the photos. These same participants made quicker decisions about the photos and their captions when they looked at the photos again, according to the press release. This was because the brain mentally prepares us for our next social engagement before it happens.

“It is getting us ready to see the world socially in terms of other people’s thoughts, feelings and goals,” Lieberman said. “That indicates it is important; the brain doesn’t just turn systems on. We walk around with our brain trying to reset itself to start thinking about other minds.”

This isn’t the only scientific reason that you check Facebook. Researchers from the University of Berlin found in 2013 that people scan their Facebook feeds because it can make them feel rewarded and good about their reputation, according to The Los Angeles Times.

This is because the reward center in our brain — the same part that responds while eating food or having sex — goes off when our Facebook status has heavy amounts of feedback and “likes,” The LA Times reported.

“You post something and then you wait for a positive social feedback in the form of likes and comments,” neurologist Dar Meshi told the LA Times. “And if you get likes, it demonstrates that people think highly of you, which is equivalent to reputation.”

The constant Facebook use could have some negative effects, though. Fox News reported in 2013 that Facebook often creates feelings of envy and jealousy among constant users since they always see their friends’ purchases, vacations and exciting life moments.

Facebook also creates “a new standard of social acceptance,” and that often leaves users depressed and filled with anxiety that they’re not being accepted by society, Fox News reported.

That’s why it’s important to maintain a healthy relationship with Facebook. Deseret News National’s Marsha Maxwell wrote earlier this year that experts recommend users use Facebook to foster relationships and for a healthy amount of self-validation. Finding the balance between the two is key, experts told Maxwell.

“People seek closeness to others for both altruistic and egoistic reasons,” a 2014 study said, according to Maxwell. “One can express caring and support for friends via Facebook, and one can also have one’s own needs for acceptance and validation fulfilled by others on Facebook.”

Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at hscribner@deseretdigital.com or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.

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