Don’t Fall Into the Facebook Trap

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Teens — and a growing number of multitasking adults — are relying more heavily on digital distractions than ever, Stanford University professor Clifford Nass told students at the University of Missouri earlier this week. Janese Silvey of the Columbia Daily Tribune reports:

“Nass, director of the Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab at Stanford, warned students that turning to gadgets when emotions get tough isn’t helping them learn how to deal with real life. He is in early stages of researching how a decrease in face-to-face interactions is affecting young adults.

The problem is people have run out of time, so they think relying on media devices is a more efficient way to communicate. In the past, when a new technology emerged, it simply took time away from a different technology. When television came out, for instance, people turned off their radios to tune in.

At some point, people ran out of time and began to enjoy parallel activities, such as listening to the radio while using their computers. Media devices today are built with the idea that people will be using them simultaneously with something else.

Texts and instant-messaging, though, have stolen time from interacting face to face, Nass said, and he thinks that’s leading to a spike in depression rates. ‘Negative emotions are hard to deal with,’ he told students. ‘It’s hard to deal with sad people, and with your own sadness.’

It gets worse when people distract themselves instead of dealing with their sadness, he added. ‘There are higher rates of depression because when someone is a little sad, they have no idea what to do with it,’ he said.

Facebook — which Nass said “replaced Disneyland as ‘the happiest place on Earth’ — isn’t helping. That’s because more and more people are posting only positive messages about their lives. Facebook is sending a message that everyone else is happy, and that makes a person think they’re sadder than the average person.” (Read more here.)

This was exactly my experience with Facebook, and part of why I started using it to share information instead of personal updates. Does FB have this effect on you, too?

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2 Responses to “Don’t Fall Into the Facebook Trap”

  1. I appreciate this article very much. I am always surprised to find out just how many 7 and 8 year olds have their own facebook accounts. What are the cognitive implications for these young generations when they are just learning how to make sense of what they are feeling, and how to effectively negotiate this with other people in ‘real-time’. Thank you for bringing attention to this important issue!

    Deborah McCallum

  2. Austin Walker says:

    Great article. I think we often rely on social media to much even just to stay in touch with family. I agree completely with the thought that it hinders teens in social development and teaches them how not to deal with real life. Great stuff

    Austin Walker
    Teen Counselor

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