This Is Your Brain on Social Networks

Filed as News on February 25, 2009 7:34 am

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A British neuroscientist at Oxford University, Susan Greenfield, is warning that social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo, MySpace and Twitter are damaging the brains of young people.

Among the damage being caused:

- Shortened attention spans
- A lack of empathy
- Need for validation from others

What does this all mean? In her expert opinion, the advancing popularity of social networking can impede the ability of younger generations to communicate effectively in person.

Talk about taking the social out of social networking!

In her words…

“I often wonder whether real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitised and easier screen dialogues, in much the same way as killing, skinning and butchering an animal to eat has been replaced by the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf.”

Ms. Greenfield also warns of a link between the rise of Internet use and increasing levels of Autism and ADHD.

Does the growing popularity of social networking worry you? Are you concerned about the next generation and the way they will communicate?

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  1. By David Benjamin posted on February 25, 2009 at 7:53 am
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    I’ve heard this arguement before and maybe it is true for younger people who haven’t developed thier social networking skills yet. I do know that these platforms have allowed me to meet a large number of professionals across the country, many of which I have now spoken to over the phone or met face to face.

    Hybrid-networking; combining online and offline networking is a great way to build relationships. It’s not the tools that matter but rather how you use them!

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  2. By Kathy | Virtual Impax posted on February 25, 2009 at 8:33 am
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    A hearty AMEN to David’s comment “It’s not the tools that matter but rather how you use them!”

    Internet use as a cause of autism? HUH!?!?! As a cause of ADHD? WHAT?

    Both of those are diagnosed in young CHILDREN!!! I’m sorry but I don’t see a lot of 6 year olds on Facebook OR Twitter!!!!

    Try pointing your finger at television – because the rise in those two diagnosis have increased since the founding of the Children’s Television Network and Sesame Street – NOT the internet!!!!

    There has also been an explosion of diagnosis for diabetes and asthma – is that caused by social media as well?

    Is my use of Twitter putting me at risk for type II diabetes?

    Oops – possibly. I just skipped my morning walk because of Twitter – so there might be more to that than the connection between autism and Twitter!!!

    Reply

  3. By Ian posted on February 25, 2009 at 9:25 am
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    Have you got a link to the transcript of what she’s actually said?

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  4. By Andrew Ian Dodge posted on February 25, 2009 at 9:50 am
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    What a load of ole’ tosh. These people are trying to say that anything that is not run by them is bad for younger people (social networks, games, music etc etc).

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  5. By Andrew G.R. posted on February 25, 2009 at 11:06 am
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  6. By Rob O. posted on February 25, 2009 at 2:02 pm
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    Texting, Tweeting, and the like ARE affecting the way we communicate – and not necessarily for the better. Gen Y people will routinely and predictably text you sooner than they will speak with you. And this confounds & frustrates the heck outta Gen X & Boomer folks, for whom a telephone is a device intended for “speaking” with another human being.

    TMI NTN *

    I predict that we’ll end up seeing remedial communications education needs rising because younger generations simply are not developing the skills for real interpersonal communications. As these “kids” flood into the workplace, bosses & managers are going to be hard-pressed to get them to adapt to more formal & effective communication styles.

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  7. By Simon Fairbairn posted on February 26, 2009 at 4:16 am
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    More formal communication styles aren’t necessarily better or more effective. Often, they involve hiding an individual’s individuality in order to make an expected impression which, frankly, makes the world more boring for everyone.

    Remedial communications suggests that there’s something wrong with the way that younger people communicate which is nonsense.
    It sounds like the older generation is running a bit scared BUT there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t keep up unless they’ve chosen to give up.

    Change is inevitable and ‘remedies’ that try to chain people down to outdated methods are doomed to fail.

    Forsooth, thy doth not talk like ye olde Englishman no more!

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  8. By Rob O. posted on February 26, 2009 at 9:09 am
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    Dawned on me after I had posted that comment, Simon, that you’re absolutely right… Conventional and/or formal communication is not by any means necessarily more efficient.

    But for those comfortable with more traditional styles of communication, the quick & dirty text-messaging style of many younger employees will not be easy for them to accept. There’s gotta be some middle ground for compromise, sure, and there are certainly some benefits to getting out of your comfort zone and broadening your skillset, but Gen Y guys still need to remember who signs the paycheck…

    Beyond that though, relying solely upon formal communication styles can hinder older generations, only communicating in Web 2.0-like fits & spurts is also likely to be limiting for Gen Y folks. Life doesn’t – shouldn’t – always fit neatly into 140 characters.

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