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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

USC Study: Twitter, Social Networks & News Updates Damage Mental Health

twitter hazard

Do social networks lead to anti-social behavior?

A headline on CNN.com today reads like a newspaper headline from a bad Sci-Fi movie: "Scientists warn of Twitter dangers", as if it were an epidemic disease. The artcile cites a sociological study by the University of Southern California which concluded:

Rapid-fire TV news bulletins or updates on Twitter or Facebook could numb our sense of morality and make us indifferent to human suffering, scientists say.

Hmmm, rapid-fire TV news bulletins could make us indifferent to human suffering as well? Doesn't CNN play rapid-fire news bulletins almost 24-7? Anyway, the study leaders included researcher Mary Helen Immordino-Yang., USC sociologist Manuel Castells and research leader Antonio Damasio, director of USC's Brain and Creativity Institute.

 Their findings:

  • In a media culture in which violence and suffering becomes an endless show, be it in fiction or in infotainment, indifference to the vision of human suffering gradually sets in.
  • Brain scans showed humans can process and respond very quickly to signs of physical pain in others, but took longer to show admiration of compassion.
  • A need for slower delivery of the news, and highlighted the importance of slow-burn emotions like admiration.

I'll agree that overexposure to violent media may contribute to the deteoration of someone's health, but I don't think it's fair to say it's the main culprit. it's never healthy to obsess over news, just as it's not healthy to obsess over food, or gambling or ANYTHING that consumes most of your time and energy. Moderation is the key. Personally, I think they're just picking on social networks because they're the hot trend.

I'll never forget when I was in high school in April 1999, when many sociologists went on CNN, Fox  and the other networks and blamed the movie Natural Born Killers and linked video games with the Columbine shootings.

I've never seen Natural Born Killers and from what I've heard, it's  a terrible movie, but I played plenty of first-person shooter games such as DoomWolfenstein and Goldeneye, and so did many of my friends. None of us ever went on a shooting rampage rampage. Maybe we should just follow the lyrics of Jack Johnson's song: Th News:

"A billion people died on the news tonight.
But not so many cried at the terrible sight.
Well mama said it's just make believe.
You can't believe everything you see.
So baby close your eyes to the lullabies
On the news tonight"

What do you think? Vote, then leave a comment stating the reason for your vote.

By Matt O'Hern at 09:32 AM | Comments (1)

(1) Thoughts on USC Study: Twitter, Social Networks & News Updates Damage Mental Health

Social media, at least my experience of it, is about connection: re-connecting with people I'd lost track of; strengthening relationship with people who had been acquaintances; and meeting new people.

When someone is hurting, celebrating, or confused, and they share that, I can feel it. If I need help or information, I just ask and, ususally, I receive help and information back. From what I've observed, this is true from many, many folks in social media. It's a circle, an expansion of community. No, it's not the same as being in the same room. What it does is open the door to conversations and connections outside of the on-line venue. It's networking -- gone global.

If someone is being constantly negative or self-centered, I just unfriend or remove. Again, I've noticed that others do the same.

I think the researchers missed the boat. Did they actually set up accounts and attempt to make it work? Or did they fall victim to an unfortunate research blind-spot: only seeing that which supported the hypothesis and missing the rest?

Comments by Elmdea : Tuesday, April 14, 2009 at 02:58 PM

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