During evolution, humans lived in small tight-knit communities in which constant cooperation was essential to survival. It made sense to punish individuals for “bad” behavior that went counter to the goals of the group so as to encourage future “good” behavior. Therefore, our brains evolved to give us a hit of pleasure when we punished “deserving” individuals by activating our medial prefrontal cortices and striatum. But contexts change. Just as our ability to store fat was adaptive but now contributes to the obesity epidemic, so too does the peer-punishment-pleasure system now cause problems in a world overindulged in (food and) social networks. Ask yourself before you post online: Is my response productive or am I giving into evolutionary temptation? Am I contributing something valuable or just reaching for a social media donut?
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