Researchers and reporters both know one thing - if you want people to sit up and take notice, take the most popular technology of the day and somehow link it to some horrible illness or social calamity. Because Facebook and Twitter are at the top of everyone's minds these days, these social networking sites have become the root of all evil in the world, judging by the headlines.
Researchers and reporters both know one thing – if you want people to sit up and take notice, take the most popular technology of the day and somehow link it to some horrible illness or social calamity. Because Facebook and Twitter are at the top of everyone’s minds these days, these social networking sites have become the root of all evil in the world, judging by the headlines.
Such ridiculous claims are often reported and re-reported (yes, even here at Network World) as if they are fact; meanwhile, there may be a germ of truth in there that gets buried. Here are some of the worst offenders.
FACEBOOK CAUSES RICKETS!
A perfect example was last week’s report that using Facebook and playing computer games will give children rickets. The basis for the claim was more reasonable – spending too much time indoors means you get less sunshine and therefore less Vitamin D, which in turn means you are less able to fight off the bone-weakening disease rickets.
Some writer apparently made the leap that those kids are spending their indoor time on Facebook and, ergo, Facebook causes rickets. In this case, the misquoted professor managed to get the word out that he was taken out of context.
FACEBOOK MAKES YOU COMMIT SUICIDE!
Last August, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England claimed that Facebook is destroying relationships. You know what, let’s throw in texting and e-mail for good measure. Instead of saying these technologies are simply changing relationships – something I think is true – he claimed they are leaving a path of destruction. There’s no question that teen suicide is a tragedy, but let’s face it - it’s a tragedy that predates social networking.
FACEBOOK WILL KILL YOUR GPA!
Some Ohio State University students who probably don’t have many Facebook friends did a study that linked Facebook use with lower grades. "We can't say that use of Facebook leads to lower grades and less studying - but we did find a relationship there," a co-author of the study said. Translation: We can’t say that use of Facebook leads to lower grades, but we’re saying it.
FACEBOOK ERODES PRODUCTIVITY!
Over the summer Nucleus Research found that companies that allow users to access Facebook in the workplace lose an average of 1.5% in total employee productivity. Well, ok, this one sounds like a fairly reasonable premise – but how do you measure that, really? And can you prove that Facebook is more distracting than, say, the Internet as a whole?
FACEBOOK WILL DESTROY YOUR MARRIAGE!
A British divorce center recently said that about 20% of all divorce documents include a reference to Facebook. The reason? The social networking site makes it way too easy to flirt inappropriately or engage in cybersex. But as PC World’s JR Raphael put it, “It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the problem isn't actually Facebook -- the problem is faithless spouses too stupid to realize they're leaving an electronic trail.” I couldn’t agree more.
TWITTER WILL MAKE YOU A HEARTLESS BASTARD!
One of the authors of a study actually said, “For some kinds of thought, especially moral decision-making about other people's social and psychological situations, we need to allow for adequate time and reflection.” That is, developing admiration and compassion take more time than sorting information does. Someone took that bit and decided that the fast-paced Twitter is robbing us of our moral compass. One of the authors told The Guardian: “I found the press release from USC where the writer made, on his own, a connection to social networks. We, the authors, certainly didn't and don't. The connection to Twitter and other social networks, as far as I can see, makes no sense.” But it does make page views.
FACEBOOK MAKES YOU LONELY!
The Samaritans surveyed young and old and found that young people were more worried about being lonely. They said that social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter add to the problem – because while you may be surrounded by “friends,” it’s a remote kind of contact.
TWITTER MAKES YOU STUPID!
This one keeps coming up. Last May, a press release was issued with this provocative headline: “Twitter Use Causes ‘Serious’ Brain Damage, Media Expert Says.” It was promptly skewered and then removed. Then, in September, a researcher said that Twitter (and texting and YouTube) is not healthy for your “working” memory – the ability to remember information and use it. In a twist, though, the psychologist said that Facebook actually helps working memory. Go figure. (See also: Best Buy calls Twitter a job qualification)
FACEBOOK AND TWITTER WILL LEAD TO CORPORATE ESPIONAGE!
Facebook users have long been known to be a security risk, because apparently they’re pretty gullible and willing to give up their personal information. Many corporate executives are also worrying that Facebook and Twitter will lead to data leaks. But, you may ask, what about e-mail, blog posts, text messages, USB thumb drives and instant messaging? Aren’t those all potential data leaks? Of course they are. And some of them were mentioned in the study. But guess what made the headline?
FACEBOOK AND TWITTER WILL GIVE YOU CANCER!
This is the ultimate link. We all know someone who has battled cancer. We all know it is one of the top causes of death. We have all heard of the studies investigating links between cell phones and brain cancer (a topic for another day, perhaps). So, if you can link Facebook or Twitter to cancer, you have hit a home run. Last February, a psychologist said that Facebook and Twitter were making people more isolated and reducing face-to-face contact. Such physical isolation has been linked to a higher degree of strokes, heart disease dementia… and cancer. However, no studies have actually been done with regard to Facebook and Twitter themselves, as The Guardian pointed out.