Bulletin: Social Web Apps Are Turning Us Into Infants

The Guardian reports that Lady Greenfield, Professor of synaptic pharmacology at Oxford and the director of the Royal Institution, is warning that social sites on the Internet are turning us all into a collection of blabbering infants. Some choice quotes:

[S]ocial networking sites “are devoid of cohesive narrative and long-term significance. As a consequence, the mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilised, characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity”.

crying-baby-726264 Oops. Greenfield goes on to put forward the possibility that there’s a link between all this short attention-span theater and the tripling of prescriptions for attenion-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Oops again.

Another interesting observation:

Social networking sites can provide a “constant reassurance – that you are listened to, recognised, and important”.

This facet of it is really interesting to me. Growing up, I never had casual friends, only a few close friends. As we gather buddies, followers and “friends” through social networks, you can’t help but wonder if this key distinction – from a real friend to one that you added to your list on Facebook – will be lost on a new generation (or already is).

2 Comments Bulletin: Social Web Apps Are Turning Us Into Infants

  1. Chris Dary

    “Social network sites risk infantilising the mid-21st century mind, leaving it characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity, according to a leading neuroscientist.”
    This sounds like Lady Greenfield is the one sensationalizing here. Seems like bullshit to me.
    I’m on a few social networks, but I have no delusions about what the people who are on my friends list mean to me – it’s the same as before, I just have an easier way of keeping in touch with them if I so choose.
    Also, people were over prescribing drugs for ADHD long before social networks came onto the scene.
    In the end, I just feel like people like this should actually try social networks before coming up with conclusions like this. It certainly sounds like she didn’t.

    Reply
  2. Richard Ziade

    I dunno Chris. I think she’s definitely onto something. It’s hard to tell today because I feel like our generation snuck by as this stuff took off.
    But a 4 year-old today? I’ll tell you this: if this were my kid, I’d put a limit on it until later on.

    Reply

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