Social Networking Will Kill You… Or Maybe Not

from the scary dept

A story doing the rounds says a new article in a British biology journal claims that social networking is harmful to your health, running under headlines like “How using Facebook could raise your risk of cancer.” Apparently replacing face-to-face human contact with online socializing “could alter the way genes work, upset immune responses, hormone levels, the function of arteries, and influence mental performance,” according to the BBC, leading to an increase of serious health problems — or, put a slightly more sensationalized way, Twitter will kill you. Charles Arthur at The Guardian’s tech blog actually bothered to read the entire article, not just the press release, and says the breathless stories are based on more on bad journalism than junk science. The original article doesn’t ever really get into the direct effect of online social networks, beyond saying people are spending more and more time on them, and never mentions any by name; it just says people are spending less time with other people, and that biologists should work to create more awareness of the detrimental effects that can have. But hey, that’s way less interesting than saying MySpace is going to rot your insides.

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Comments on “Social Networking Will Kill You… Or Maybe Not”

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Hulser says:

WFH v. Facebook

If it’s really true that “people are spending less time with other people”, I think it has less to do with social networking and more to do with the overall types of communications made available by the Internet and modern telecommunications technology.

For example, I believe that telecommuting has a far greater negative impact on spending time with other people than does MySpace or Facebook. In my experience, social networks help to keep you in contact with people who are already your friends, which increases the odds that you’ll get together with them in person. But working from home decreases the odds that you’ll make friends with your co-workers, which obviously decreases the odds that you’ll get together with them in person. If all that you do is e-mail or telecon with a co-worker, you’re far less likely to establish any kind of relationship with that person, much less have any chance of becoming their friend.

THE MAN says:

Its not the Facebook that will kill you, its the fat that will kill you.

Turn off the computer, grab the extra-reinforced handrails and climb out of your mothers basement you ‘Social Network’ geeks. Try being a real person and staying of the stupid computer for a little while. Computers are for work and generating revinue. If it is not going to make you money, stay off the computer and live your life. Loose some weight, meet a live friend, talk walk, get laid…..OK, I am probably going too far with that one. But you can take a walk.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Its not the Facebook that will kill you, its the fat that will kill you.

Please leave your High School gym for long enough to realize that the modern computer geek is a healthy socially active member in good standing of your society. Not the shunned “Neeeerd” of 1974 that you seem to think that anyone capable of doing more than banging out a few quick insults in a forum is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Its not the Facebook that will kill you, its the fat that will kill you.

This “geek” you are talking about is NOT a social networking geek. In my experience, since I’m the geek you are referring to, the people on social networking sites are either popular people trying to be tech-savvy, or they are lonely depressed people who have to resort to social networking to make friends.

The geeks you are referring to, me, are the ones who spend their time programming, gaming, and being overall asocial. We disklike social network sites because of their fakeness and because we don’t like the people in the previous paragraph. Please don’t lump social network geeks with us real techies.


PaulT (profile) says:

I know virtually nobody who uses Facebook to socialise *instead* of face-to-face contact. It gets used to either organise social lives or to contact people that would not normally be able to be contacted (due to geographical location or work schedules, for example).

I also know very few people who use the internet instead of having a social life. It usually replaces time that they might have spent reading, watching TV or even sleeping rather than the time they would have participated in other activities. So, I doubt there really is any net reduction in the way people socialise, and what reduction there is probably has little directly to do with the internet.

Anyway, “bad journalism”? Of course. It’s no surprise that the linked article is from that right-wing reactionary rag the Daily Fail. If I read that they said the sky was blue, I’d look up to check.

Eric (user link) says:

I don’t know why being a code monkey and a gamer and antisocial go together all the time. It seems like this stereotype is getting proven more false by the day.

And I agree with the comment that people use facebook to organize getting together in real life, not replace real life interaction.

Hell, people use video games and facebook as a way to stay in touch with friends from real life that have moved away. How does that factor in to the less face time, spending time chatting with an old friend you would never talk to otherwise?

Anonymous Coward says:

Ban Books

We should ban books, too. Everything said about on-line social networks avoiding human contact would apply just as much to someone sitting at home and reading a book instead of going out to a social event.

One of the basic assumptions in the original article is very commonly made, but is totally wrong. Everyone assumes that social networking/internet use is done by people sitting at home in a dark room. I run a college computer lab. Even though all the students have computers in their dorm rooms, they come to the computer labs and get on facebook/myspace, They chatter away verbally as they visit various websites, often having several people visit the same page at once. At home I have noticed that my kids take their laptops to the same room and chatter away as they surf and use social networks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Beginning epidemic of bad journalism and junk science?

This story seems to fit into Britan’s desire to regulate Social Networking Sites. But my favorite Bad Journalism article of the week is thatLiving near a fast food restaurant increases risk of stroke.

Is the news business that bad that they see a need to compete with The Onion? Who comes up with this stuff?

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Twitering as a threat

Good for you, Carlo! Sorry, I called you Carl in an earlier post.
Pegging is bad, and when a news report “pegs” it can be disastrous.
Recently the LA Times published an article saying “vitamins do not help” (paraphrased, but correct). The ScienceDaily article they got that from said, in effect, “vitamins are good for you, but C and E do not prevent heart attacks” – not that anyone ever said they would, to my knowledge.

Mark Easterling (user link) says:

Here is a solution.

Wow Bob. I guess your mother never taught you any manners.

I would suggest taking a look at I’ve used it at work for a while now and it works where ever there is file sharing in place. No need to install anything. It makes it fun to chat with friends that you work with. Maybe not social networking, but it is nice to connect with peoples.

Anonymous Coward says:

Lick your keyboard

That’s unlikely to help much – apart from the ones related to poor food hygiene (if you eat at your computer), most of the germs on a private keyboard are ones you put there, or deposited from the air. That means that you’re only being exposed to germs you’re already exposed to.

A shared keyboard is a whole different kettle of fish.

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