British researcher says Facebook a brain drain

Feb 25, 2009 By Robert Mitchum, Chicago Tribune

This is your brain. This is your brain on Facebook.

It's an advertisement you might see someday, if testimony given to the British House of Lords this month is to be believed. In remarks that have stirred up a tempest in the British press and on the Internet, Baroness Susan Greenfield, a neuroscientist at the University of Oxford, warned that the instant feedback and impersonal communication offered by social networking sites could drive human brains and behavior in negative directions.

"As a consequence, the mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilized, characterized by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathize and a shaky sense of identity," Greenfield said Feb. 12.

But American scientists, while agreeing that Facebook use could influence behavior and brain function, said research into those effects is only beginning.

"Social networking sites are very powerful," said Dr. Gary Small, a neuroscientist at UCLA and author of the book "iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind." "They can really help people in many ways, but they also do have risks."

Small said the idea of Web sites affecting brain function is not far-fetched: A study he performed found increased brain activity after a computer-naive person was taught to use Google.

BJ Fogg, a of Stanford University researcher who has taught classes on "the psychology of Facebook," said he wasn't surprised to hear alarm spread in certain circles about the site, but doubted it would have much of an impact.

"Even if there were evidence Facebook was somehow changing the brain in a bad way," Fogg said, "I don't think people would stop using social networking."

___

(c) 2009, Chicago Tribune.
Visit the Chicago Tribune on the Internet at www.chicagotribune.com/
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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User comments : 2

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joex
5 / 5 (2) Feb 25, 2009
So Faceboook is worse than beer. Well, glad I don't use facebook.
Arikin
3 / 5 (2) Feb 25, 2009
Is this a real study by Susan Greenfield or a pencil and paper theory? Or maybe a good way to get your name in the news?

Facebook doesn't do the socializing for you! So don't confuse a fancy black book service like Facebook with actually doing something fun with your friends.

But of course when people start to never leave their homes for any reason like school, work, groceries, tending the lawn, walks, etc. Then we can worry about this article.

For now this just reminds me of when they thought phones would take away your privacy and T.V. would steal your kids. If they have already then time to send your kids to a survival camp for the summer :-)