Is Facebook a Neolithic Agent of Disease?

Next week I'll be heading to Atlanta Georgia for the 2013 Ancestral Health Symposium. The gathering represents a "who's who" of the Paleo world in addition to numerous authors and experts from a variety of related fields. Last year, I covered AHS for Paleo Magazine, and it was a great experience. This time around however, I'll be attending as a presenter and I have some big shoes to fill. Instead of presenting on exercise, diet, or the usual suspects of sleep and stress, I chose to address the elephant in room.

The Ancestral Health community represents a paradox. On one hand, the benefits of living like our ancestors are promoted and discussed, but on the other hand, this promotion and discussion most often takes place through the internet and social media. I spoke with Loren Cordain on Episode 2 of Paleo Magazine Radio and he attributes the explosive growth of Paleo to the social media savvy of Robb Wolf and the legion of blogger who have followed in his footsteps.

This would seem like an advertisement for social media, and in some ways it is. There is tremendous power in connecting people from all over the world without regard for differences in language and geography. I can talk about carbs with someone from Sweden, debate the merits of parkour-style training with a traceur in Austin, or go on a rant about wheat with a farmer in Virginia. However, there is no convenience that is without consequence.

When food processing really took off in the last century, the developments were hailed as the greatest of human achievements. The hungry would be fed, starvation would be a thing of the past, and everyone would have a chicken in their cooking pot. In hindsight we now know that hunger still exists, and now the problem of overfeeding, of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease threatens millions worldwide while unsustainable agricultural practices threaten our environment and call into question the fate of future generations.

So what is the consequence of easy connection via social media? What is the hidden price we are paying for the ability to share our thoughts with hundreds if not thousands of people, for the instant gratification of "likes", "shares", and "retweets"?

The study of addiction gives us some clues. The mesolimbic pathway, a series of ancient neurons deep in our brain is intimately tied to reward, the motivating mechanism for us to feed, to procreate, to avoid danger, or to connect socially.

These reward centers evolved in an environment much different than that of today. Food was scarce and social connection was a matter of life and death. Today, however, we have turned these evolutionary adaptation loose. Unbound from any sort of environmental limitation, we are free to experience an intensity of reward that would have been unheard of 10,000 or even 10 years ago.

I'll give a more detailed breakdown of my presentation post AHS, but for now, here's an infographic from Best Masters in Psychology that will give you quick overview of internet addiction, for which social media addiction is an emerging subset.

Infographic by Best Masters in Psychology
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About Unknown

Tony is the host of the Paleo Magazine Radio podcast, author of "Paleo Grilling: A Modern Caveman's Guide to Cooking with Fire", and Cofounder of Powerful PT, an innovative information resource for Fitness Professionals. He has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio broadcasts and regularly hosts healthy cooking workshops and informational lectures. He is also a full-time Personal Trainer and Wellness Consultant who lives in Jacksonville Florida with his wife Jamie.
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