Is Social Media Making Us Stupid?

Inane selfies, lame memes, ridiculous games, unverified yet incendiary political as well as religious propaganda, photographs of breakfast, lunch and dinner, it goes on. Social networks today are full of things that arguably add nothing towards any cerebral cause. In their contemplative moments, many people do ask: is social media making us stupid? We spend over 20 minutes globally on an average purely on Facebook, where’s it taking the next generations? Do we need to wait for Singularity? 🙂

is social media making us stupid

Debate: Is Social Media Making Us Stupid For Real?

Who’s Using Social Media And How?

a. The Teens

A huge chunk of social media users are teenagers who are mostly students and not involved in any professional work. So, their involvement and frivolous and unproductive activities is not surprising. Facebook is the new bar, it’s where you meet people. One could argue, that if they did not have this option, they could have used this time for something more useful such as reading a book, doing some physical exercise or developing a new hobby.

b. The Baby Boomers

As shared before, the most high growth segment of social media users is the older generation above 40. These are people who’ve not necessarily grown up on social media or the Internet and are now connecting with kids and friends like never before.

c. The Millennials And the Adults between 24-40

Most social media usage by adults happens during work hours. This is when people have access to the Internet and are not disturbed by kids, pets or the perennial realities of adulthood. Social provides for a distraction at the moment when the brain cells need sleep.

The Social Media Cons 

a. People across age groups are forming a regular habit bordering addiction to social media. This may further lead to: depression, lack of sleep, anxiety, loss in confidence, feelings of loneliness and other such psychological issues.

b. We are seeing a rise in the incidents of bullying and other cyber crimes committed through social media in the younger (teens) and older (new to the Internet) demographics

c. A certain impact on work-productivity. Although, every once in while you get your greatest work inspiration from social media. So this necessarily isn’t as easy as it may sound. More ever, plenty of us use social media for work. That makes it hard to calculate productivity gains & loses.

How does Social Media Affect Our Cognitive & Intellectual Development?

According to make researchers, social media is affecting our cognitive and intellectual development. Here’s how:

a) Firstly it is developing addiction and consuming all our free time: A study by the University of Maryland states  that, students who were asked to go without the Internet for 24 hours faced withdrawal symptoms.

You could have read, painted or played a sport otherwise. But now you play candy crush on the networks and just stare at your Facebook Wall blankly to see what others are posting. After all, won’t it be better for us as well as our planet if we step out to the garden and actually plant something instead of digging Farmville?

b) Secondly it has affected originality by making duplication easier: A study published by the Journal of the Royal Society Interface scientists have found that mass connectivity through social media and technology might be making us stupider. Basically, a vast amount of information available is letting people get to answers quicker. But they’re not necessarily allowing their brains to go through analytical reasoning or contemplation. 

c) Social media users are constantly multitasking: According to this report, Stanford professor Clifford Nass has argued that higher usage traditional and social media erodes social and emotional development.

“If you observe humans using computer programs that are designated to be “smart,” you will see them make themselves stupid in order to make the programs work”- Jaron Lanier

d) We’re thinking and contemplating less: Dr. Rahwan from the University of Edinburg says, social media platforms and exposure is making us think lesser.

‘We think people are unwilling to reflect more because it takes time and effort’

You can find something interesting or useful posted by someone else and post that yourself to gain appreciation. You do not have to think and come up with anything original and this can potentially make our brains lazy. That is why we see a lot of people who commenting on trending topics, basically sharing posts of other people even if they actually have no clue about the topic, just to come across as intelligent. There are others who are defined as “lukers” and constantly just consuming content without creating anything themselves

is social media making us stupid brandanew

In an opinion piece, Liz Swan and Louis Goldberg share the far reaching consequences of instant media and social technologies on our overall communication, saying:

But ironically, our ability to communicate instantaneously with each other via our devices has caused a regression in our language skills. Tech-driven communication has blurred the traditional divide between verbal and written communications so that young people write like they speak, and sometimes, lack the skills to do otherwise. Social media have seduced us into transforming the formal, thought-enhancing written form of communication into an impersonal form of oral communication.

Social media benefits

All is not lost!

a) Let us face it, if somebody is lethargic and unoriginal, he/she will always find some way to do things his way. Social media has just made it easier for such people. Those who are industrious are using it productively and building constantly on top of existing social media platforms.

b) We’re making more informed decisions and information asymmetries are being challenged. Social media has the potential to democratize information to anyone with access.

c) A lot of organizations and professionals are using it to grow their business. Social media is a great channel for someone new like a Startup or a small business to build reach without having to go through expensive channels. A lot of professionals, especially freelancers are finding work through these networks by networking with relevant people.

d) We’re in a world of constant inspiration and getting exposed to good sources of knowledge and creativity if we follow the right people or join the right groups.

Like any new technology or change, social media does have its downside but it is mostly up to the user to extract the positive or negative result out of it! Which side are you on? 🙂

Do share your views with us!

This post was written in coordination with Enakshi Sharma. Original image: Flickr


Upasna Kakroo

Upasna co-founded Brandanew in 2014 for the sheer love of storytelling and authentic connections. She has been blogging and documenting digital stories since 2003.