Psychological Effects of Social Media

3121 Words Nov 4th, 2011 13 Pages
The Daily Mail just ran a thought-provoking article about the effect that social websites have on childhood development. In short, eminent neuroscientist Susan Greenfield claims that social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter shorten attention spans and contribute to an instant gratification, self-centered mindset.
From the article:
We know how small babies need constant reassurance that they exist. My fear is that these technologies are infantilising the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.
I often wonder whether real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitised and easier screen dialogues,
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After all, whenever you play a computer game, you can always just play it again; everything you do is reversible. The emphasis is on the thrill of the moment, the buzz of rescuing the princess in the game. No care is given for the princess herself, for the content or for any long-term significance, because there is none. This type of activity, a disregard for consequence, can be compared with the thrill of compulsive gambling or compulsive eating.
"The sheer compulsion of reliable and almost immediate reward is being linked to similar chemical systems in the brain that may also play a part in drug addiction. So we should not underestimate the 'pleasure' of interacting with a screen when we puzzle over why it seems so appealing to young people."
Greenfield also warned there was a risk of loss of empathy as children read novels less. "Unlike the game to rescue the princess, where the goal is to feel rewarded, the aim of reading a book is, after all, to find out more about the princess herself."
She said she found it strange we are "enthusiastically embracing" the possible erosion of our identity
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