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Network World - 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.