Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Effects of Facebook?

There have been a couple of articles in the Daily Mail recently about the effects of the internet, specifically social networking sites, on us and children in particular.

The first was suggesting that social networking sites could produce cancer. At first glance you would probably say rubbish. However we need to dig a little deeper beyond the media headline hype.

Our bodies have evolved to be a socially interactive animal. Devoid of that element in our life can cause mental, and physical, problems. This is well documented by prisoners and hostages over the years. On the surface, social interaction via sites such as Facebook fulfills that requirement in our life. But does our body understand that?

Is our body hard-wired to determine the required social interaction as being face to face where it can receive not only words but also facial expressions and body gestures? The internet removes all of that. How many times have you misinterpreted an email, got the wrong end of the stick and reacted inappropriately?

So if you take the case of someone who's life revolves around the internet and they just don't meet anyone, how is the body going to react?

Dr David Mickel, the GP who discovered the possible cause of ME, believes that the body generates symptoms, and sometimes real illnesses, in an attempt to force a change in circumstances to rectify the life balance.

So if that's the case, maybe the theory of Facebook causing cancer may not be so far fetched.

Thankfully, for the vast majority of us, social networking sites are just a relatively small part of our life and we live, most of the time, in the real world.

The second article was a front page headline suggesting that the same social networking sites are causing our children to have remarkably short attention spans. Well if you've got this far down my blog you certainly don't suffer from that!

In this case I think we need to look at the wider world that our children are brought up in. It's a world of short, sharp messages and multi-tasking.

Most informative programes on television are broken into micro-segments with several themes running in tandem throughout the show. Flipping backwards and forwards between them with quick updates to remind you what's happening. I find that type of programming quite frustrating as I'm used to the traditional format but it must be popular as they all use it now.

Written media has taken the same direction too. The popular press and magazines consist of snippets supported by photographic images, almost a comic style, with no real substantial essay type material.

And then, of course, there is texting. Rapid, word truncated, conversations that are conducted whilst doing something else.

So is Facebook causing the problem? I doubt it. I think it's more about the new world we live in - good or bad is up to you to decide.

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