Beware of Using Facebook Whilst Studying
The notion that the Internet is making us stupid is not a new one. People such as Nicholas Carr and Susan Greenfield have been suggesting that our use of the Web is changing our thought processes for some time now.
Facebook is often the social media whipping boy in such discussions. A University of Manchester study recently found for instance that Facebook users are dimmer than their Twitter counterparts.
New research provides a more explicit link between our Facebook usage and our academic capabilities however. The study asked students how often they engaged in certain activities during study time, including sending text messages, emails and using Facebook. The message was clear - using Facebook resulted in a lower GPA!
The researchers suggest that this is due to the overwhelming stimuli Facebook submits us to. “Human information processing is insufficient for attending to multiple input streams and for performing simultaneous tasks,” write the study’s authors Reynol Junco and Shelia R. Cotton.
Obviously if it was simply a case of multitasking in general causing our attention to suffer it would perhaps not be very newsworthy. After all, it's well known that when conducting difficult tasks, what Daniel Kahneman would call system 2 thinking, requires us to be free from distractions.
But this study suggests that Facebook has a bigger impact than other types of distractions. The difference is due to how we use various technologies. The University of Manchester study found that Twitter users seek out information, whilst Facebook users tend to seek out less weighty things. The Junco research makes similar suggestions.
They think that where technologies like email are often used to solicit information from professors, Facebook is generally used purely to loaf off. Students in the study spent on average 101 minutes on Facebook every day.