Is social networking ruining the human brain?

by Richard on February 24, 2009

The Guardian: Facebook and Bebo risk ‘infantilising’ the human mind

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.
The startling warning from Lady Greenfield, professor of synaptic
pharmacology at Lincoln college, Oxford, and director of the Royal
Institution, has led members of the government to admit their work on
internet regulation has not extended to broader issues such as the
psychological impact on children.

Posted via email from Richard Hall’s perfectly pointless blog

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }


Kim 02.24.09 at 11:18 am

… risk infantilising the mid-21st century mind, leaving it characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity …

Well there’s a vaticinium ex eventu (a prophecy after the fact) if ever there was one. Like all that infantilism wasn’t already well in place by the end of the last century. If it gets much worse, instead of caps/hats we’ll all be wearing nappies/diapers on our heads.


Tony Buglass 02.24.09 at 12:27 pm

By comparison, it has been said for years that TV has reduced the attention span to the space between commercial breaks - so sermons, etc should be no more than 10-15 minutes at most. Then I watch “Live at the Apollo” and see someone holding his audience totally engaged for much longer than that, without visual aids or special effects.

Perhaps the short attention span, if it is there, has more to do with people (preachers, teachers, politicians) simply not being able to communicate effectively. Technology is a useful scapegoat.


fatprophet 02.24.09 at 8:16 pm

Tony I think you have a very valid point here in respect of people not being able to communicate effectively.
Two good examples of effective communication that strike me are Doctor Tony Stone who I heard one night in the 1980’s at a church in Birmingham where he had been fetched up out of the congregation to speak because the person who should have been speaking was not there. He spoke for an hour and it really did seem like five minutes. The other one was one of my lecturers at university who took us for the fascinating subject of the history of housing. He used to do a two hour lecture with no notes, no handouts or anything of the sort and we sat enthralled by him as he took us through what was potentially a really boring topic.
I heard a story recounted a couple of months ago at the memorial service of a fellow preacher from a neighbouring circuit. The minister paying tribute said that Geoff had tutored many people over the years and while realising the need for the academic side of the training he always put this question at the forefront - ‘Can the beggar preach?’


Wood 02.25.09 at 12:02 pm

Did anyone see Ben Goldacre rip into this on Newsnight? I only heard about it second hand, but I believe that he did a good job of explaining why this was stupid.


Richard 02.25.09 at 2:07 pm

You’ll see that I’ve posted the Newsnight interview, Wood.

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