Criticizing Social Networks Leads To Wacked Out Hyperbole

from the news-at-11 dept

There are plenty of reasons to criticize certain aspects of social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter, and it’s no surprise at all that there’s something of a growing backlash against some of the sites. But, what’s amazing is the level of hyperbole that has come with criticism of both Facebook and Twitter over the past few months, most of it either flat-out wrong or, at the very least, uninformed:

  • First, there was the totally ridiculous claim that Facebook would give you cancer. Of course, that’s just what the press release said. The actual research said no such thing.
  • Then there were the researchers who claimed that Facebook made girls depressed, but seemed unaware of the difference between correlation and causation.
  • Then there was the claim that the only people who used Twitter were losers who had no self-identity (this from a clinical psychologist) or massively insecure (from a cognitive neuroscientist). There was no reasoning behind those claims. They just didn’t like Twitter. The same thing, of course, could be said about email. Or the telephone. Or the telegraph. Or letters. How dare people wish to communicate with others! Insecure bastards!
  • Next up was the pharmacology professor who claimed that Twitter and Facebook help infantilize our brains. Based on what evidence? Nothing more than a hunch and some incorrect assumptions. I’d argue that making stuff up is more likely to infantilize our brains than communicating with others.
  • Then there was the study that got tons of press about how students who used Facebook got worse grades than those who didn’t. The problem there? Bad research methodology. Some more comprehensive research showed the original findings were total bunk.
  • And, now, the very latest, found via Mathew Ingram is some guy (who’s name we won’t even bother mentioning because he’s simply trying to gain publicity to sell books on how to get noticed) claiming that Twitter causes brain damage. He had put out a press release claiming this (he’s not a doctor or a scientist or anything — just a “social media expert” who obviously shouldn’t be hired for help with Twitter), but then pulled it down when someone who had a relative with brain damage complained. But he stuck by his complaints, none of which make much sense:

    Twitter is little more than a slick microblog service, really nothing more than Facebook’s status update feature, which I happen to think is better designed.

    Er… no one said it was anything more than that. But it is actually quite different from Facebook’s status update, mainly in the openness of Twitter. But that’s fine. So he doesn’t like it. Why does that mean it causes brain damage?

    I don’t want to follow Domino’s pizza on Twitter. Sometimes I just want the pizza, you know?

    I don’t want to follow Domino’s Pizza on Twitter either. So, you know what? I don’t.

    And I think Twitter teaches younger users the wrong values — namely, that WHAT you say matters far less than how many “followers” you have.

    Really? Then someone is using Twitter incorrectly. I never look at how many followers anyone has and I don’t really care. All that matters to me in figuring out who I follow is if they have something interesting to say. In my experience, Twitter is exactly the opposite of what this guy claims. Perhaps his issue about numbers of users displays more about his own fears than Twitter.

    And it is making us dumber: news anchors airing dumb, abbreviated opinions of 15-year-olds. Who cares?

    Ah, yes, anecdotal stupidity. Well, it’s just as easy to flip that around. Twitter is allowing those who never had a voice before to get heard. Will it be misused or used badly? Sure, at times. But does that condemn the whole system? No more than the fact that some folks use the telephone to say stupid things to one another means the telephone makes us stupid.

    Also, most of what I read on Twitter is social posturing, self-promotion, and nonsense — a whole community of people trying to boost their “follower count” without building real relationships with friends or customers or anyone else.

    The problem seems to be this guy doesn’t follow interesting people and doesn’t seem to recognize the little button that makes it easy to unfollow anyone you dislike. Most of what I read on Twitter is insightful, interesting, relevant and fascinating. But that’s because I try to follow insightful, interesting, relevant and fascinating people on Twitter. This guy should try that.

On the whole, though, it does seem a bit odd, looking at how incredibly hyperbolic and unsupported all of these claims are. Based on them, I could easily retort that “Criticizing Twitter And Facebook Makes You Stupid.” But who would make widespread generalizations based on a few hand-picked pieces of data anyway?

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Companies: facebook, twitter

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Comments on “Criticizing Social Networks Leads To Wacked Out Hyperbole”

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Anonymous Coward says:

What is interesting about each of these examples is the hyperbole was parroted by main stream media almost as proven fact. Few if any actually asked questions, got contrary opinion or even bothered with basic fact checking. Bloggers were often the first to challenge the myths, misconceptions and general bad journalism in these stories.

And big media actually wonders why no one wants pay to read their drivel?

LQuinn (user link) says:

Time for a change

I’m personally on the fence about Twitter. I understand how its simplicity is what makes it a functional networking tool, but at the same time it’s hindering conversation in general. It’s desensitizing the general public, only allowing people to see quick reactions and feelings, then moving on before the emotion can be fully registered. It’s filled with narcissism and vanity, with hardly any informational/opinionated posts from ordinary non-corporate individuals.

On the other hand, Twitter is a great marketing and advertising tool for products and services, a real time portal for news and information, while also allowing a person to market their own personal blogs and articles. However, what is the lasting power of this 140 character’d system of communication, especially when most people who start really don’t understand the concept?

Social networking is evolutionary, and will continue to change as our society asks for something more. I suggest checking out eZanga’s new social network, They reward their members with cash and prizes for their social activity on the site. Plus, it’s absolutely free. Integrated rewards may be the next best thing.

Tgeigs says:

Re: Time for a change

“It’s desensitizing the general public, only allowing people to see quick reactions and feelings, then moving on before the emotion can be fully registered”

I enjoy it when people talk about things like Twitter as if it were an animate, living thing that was actively seeking out trouble. Twitter doesn’t desensitize and/or move on. It’s a platform for quick blurbs. People either use it, or they don’t. Your beef seems to be with some of the people using it, not the program.

LQuinn (user link) says:

Re: Re: Time for a change

I don’t harbor harsh feelings about Twitter, nor am I trying to humanize it whatsoever. I think you may have mistaken my point. I don’t understand the hype. I don’t understand how people can really take in these real-time updates in 140 characters.

You can say, perhaps, that my ‘beef’ is with a platform that ‘blurbs’ out nonsensical data. Businesses should not be flocking to Twitter as a marketing mecca. Personally, I believe this is a fad. No one knows how to use it, and most of the people who do, write incoherently.

Tgeigs says:

Re: Re: Re: Time for a change

“You can say, perhaps, that my ‘beef’ is with a platform that ‘blurbs’ out nonsensical data”

That’s my point, the platform doesn’t DO anything, let alone “blurb out nonsensical data”, the people utilizing it do. How can you then claim you aren’t anthropomorphosizing Twitter?

As for the rest, I’d probably agree w/you, it IS a fad, people DON’T know how to right coherently, etc. etc. But that stands true for other media as well. I’m an aspiring novelist, and when I write in what I want to make my profession, I take pride in the work. So every once in a while I enjoy taking my local paper and editing it for grammar and syntax errors. You’d be amazed at how many there are. Should we rail against the papers for this reason?

LQuinn (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Time for a change

I am not saying nonsensical in regards to grammatical error, I’m saying how I think tweets such as, “Should I wear the black shoes with the white dress, or the red shoes with the black dress” is nonsensical. Maybe I should except this as the eventual evolution of social media.

I guess I should have rephrased my opinion. Yes you are right, it is the people who are promoting and evolving this network rather than “Twitter” itself. Exaggeration is in my nature, therefore, my opinion is overt and extreme.

More or less, I’m just trying to say that the function and purpose of Twitter is beyond my comprehension.

mark Rosedale (profile) says:

Follow count

I do actually look at other people’s follow count. Not because it matters to me. I actually look more at the disparity between followed and following particularly if I am looking for network building as apposed to just soaking in the content. So the person who is following 1 person, but has 5,000 followers better have some damn good content for me to follow. I also try to follow people back if they follow me, but again if that number is to disparaging than I may not knowing that they followed me just so I would follow them and that they may even unfollow me in short order.

In the end my number of followers doesn’t matter that much to me, but I do look at it from time to time.

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