A new study has found that social media might be causing people’s minds to regress into the state of an infant’s.
Scientists have expressed concern over prolonged usage of social media sites stunting children’s cognitive growth and actually causing adults’ intelligence to dwindle.
“I think a lot of us have noticed this phenomenon over the years. We just have a study now to prove it,” says Dr Tao Yan Ren, who had spearheaded the three-year research programme.
The results of the study, which were published earlier this month, highlight the indirect relationship between a child’s learning development and the direction that social media progresses toward.
For instance, it states that a child begins learning by associating words and images before going on to read bodies of text that increase in length and complexity.
Social media, on the other hand, moves in the opposite direction. In the beginning, people would blog massively long posts on webhosts like Blogspot (now Blogger), Livejournal and Diaryland.
Such posts were mainly text-based, with little photos to accompany – though much thought and creativity were put into intricate layouts. This was followed by the fun, music-oriented and a little complicated Myspace, then Friendster, with its CV-like layout that prompted 200-word testimonials from friends, followed by Facebook and Twitter. Then came Tumblr, which introduced an increased usage of photographs, Pinterest, which is pretty image-based but still offers some room for creativity and text, and finally, the coup-de-grace, Instagram, a 100% photo-based app.
But it isn’t just the ratio of images to text that displayed the dwindling intellect of the masses – the content of posts uploaded was extremely informative as well.
“Facebook was particularly indicative on how people’s intelligence were becoming increasingly affected by the use of social media,” Dr Tao shares. “During the study, we discovered that the messages exchanged between social media users were becoming increasingly stupid through the years.”
The study tracked 300 users of social media and studied the development of their status updates and shared posts from their past, up until June 2012, on a wide range of social media sites such as Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram.
Some examples of “posts indicative on the intellectual regression of participants” include:
“My HIV results came back positive! I’m clean!”
“THE BEETLES COPIED JUSTINE BIEBER.”
“Mannoiase is disgusting as f*** but my god it does wonders to my hair.”
“Twitter is my alter eagle.”
But perhaps the most pressing issue is how people have seemingly given up on expressing themselves through words and have resorted to simply posting up images to show what they had been up to for the day.
This includes mundane items such as their three meals, their feet, the sky or ‘selfies’.
“This is a concern because we don’t know just how far this phenomenon will go,” Dr Tao says. “Does this mean that humans will soon resort to grunts and nods to communicate? Or maybe we’ll just cry like babies to communicate to each other what we want, while posting self-shots of our teary faces.”
A comparison between two brains – one of an avid social media site user and another of someone who doesn’t not engage in social media – has also shed some light on this unsettling issue.
“I hope this study will help people become more aware of the dangers of social media, and exercise caution when using such sites,” Dr Tao shares.
Dr Tao himself doesn’t own a Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram account on the grounds that if he did, he would’ve wound up too stupid to complete the research.
However, he adds, “I have developed a liking to Friendster. I like to have it as a reminder that some things go downhill and never find a way up again. It propels me to keep working harder. I believe that people can regain their intellect again. It is not yet too late.”