Social Networking Dissolves Your Brain (riiiiiight…)
…and other outrageous claims from the out-of-touch.
I saw Lady Susan Greenfield’s comments on the effects of social networking via the New York Times LEDE Blog yesterday, as her analysis has been a popular topic across the web. TechCrunch’s Sarah Lacy had a response that mirrors my own: “I’m wondering if Lady Greenfield has ever used a social networking site.” You can see my liberal, artistic interpertation above. The LEDE blog I mentioned provides a good overview of Greenfield’s remarks; here are two direct quotes that stuck out to me:
“My fear is that these technologies are infantilizing 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. […]
Real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitized and easier screen dialogues, in much the same way as killing, skinning and butchering an animal to eat has been replaced by the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf. Perhaps future generations will recoil with similar horror at the messiness, unpredictability and immediate personal involvement of a three-dimensional, real-time interaction.”
You can see her speak directly on YouTube (admittedly without any context provided to support or explain her responses.)
As I commented on The Washington Post’s site, Greenfield’s analysis leaves me thinking, “what, huh?”
I’d agree with Greenfield to the extent that anything in excess is unhealthy, be it running, eating, social networking, drinking or reading. Pretty much anything you can add an “ing” to isn’t healthy or recommended in excessive, life-absorbing capacities. Point taken. I would expect a youth who did nothing but stare at a computer screen all day everyday to have an infantile brain, and I would expect the same inappropriate development in a kid who stared at a single tree all day. It’s not that the computer screen or the tree is hurting the child, but that the child is obsessing over both in entirely unnatural, problematic ways.
However, Greenfield’s concern over the implications of real time communication are completely illogical. When speaking to her friends face-to-face or on the phone, does Greenfield not communicate in real time? Does she take breaks between sentences to think up the “clever or witty responses” she esteems? The beauty of Web 2.0 is that the speed of communication has made it much more like “real-life” offline, but with the potential to interact with friends and ideas from around the world, unlimited by geographic location. I think she might also be surprised by the plethora of clever, witty material available through these mediums. (I can already imagine a Saturday Night Live Really!? segment featuring Seth’s thoughts on Greenfield). Greenfield seems to be calling for a slowdown in the communication process, but I am unsure what she would prefer since one of the earliest means of communication: face-to-face, verbal communication is still the fastest method around.
There is so much to learn and study about the impact of social networking, but extreme positions unsupported by data aren’t helpful to any side of the social networking conversation. Greenfield’s obvious ignorance about the intrcacies of social media make it hard to take her too seriously.
(Graphic created by adapting image found here)
Entry filed under: Current Events, For Laughs, Kids, Learning, News, Social Media, Social Networks, Technology, Youth. Tags: brain, Lady Susan Greenfield, online communication, real time communication, Sarah Lacy, Saturday Night Live, Social Networks, social networks harmful.