A study of 57 students between the ages of 18 and 25 provided DNA samples and completed a questionnaire that assessed their anxiety and avoidance behaviours.
The researchers used the samples to genotype a specific variant in the oxytocin receptor gene OXTR, which has been dubbed the ‘love hormone’. The G allele of OXTR have been found with people who seek more social support in hostile environments, as well as greater empathy and satisfaction in marriage for those with the GG allele compared to those with the A allele.
The researchers examined the participants’ Instagram profiles, including the number of posts, followers, and people followed, and found that those with an AA genotype of the OXTR gene followed more people than G-allele carriers, regardless of the quality of their intimate relationships.
“Overall, the role played by the A and G alleles of the OXTR SNPs toward general social behaviour is debated," said senior study author Gianluca Esposito a psychologist at the University of Trento in Italy and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
"The current findings could inspire future research exploring online sociability with a gene-environment perspective."
According to the researchers, the AA genotype could make individuals more inclined to be sociable online, but they did not find evidence that gene-environment interactions influence online sociability.
"The present results should be interpreted with a great degree of caution in the panorama of genetic association studies," Esposito continued. "This is a small initial investigation of the phenomenon and should be followed up in different countries as well as in larger samples."
The researchers’ findings have been published in the journal Heliyon.
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