Psychologist, Aric Sigman suggests that the use of social networking sites as opposed to face-to-face interaction could lead to major health problems. Dr. Sigman claimed in the British Journal, The Biologist, that spending too much time online could lead to social isolation, loneliness and a negative outlook. These types of psychological symptoms could eventually lead to more serious health concerns, such as heart disease, cancer and dementia.
Time that was previously spent interacting socially has increasingly been displaced by the virtual variety,” Sigman said in his article. “While the precise mechanisms underlying the association between social connection, morbidity and morality continue to be investigated, it is clear that this is a growing public health issue for all industrialized countries.
Internet psychology expert, Andrew Dillon, clearly believes that this is yet another new tool that is being used to create panic and predict the burden it may have on society; much like the criticism television has received over the years. Dillon attacks Sigman’s credibility and scientific methods, claiming that too much weight has been placed on evidence supporting his views, while purposely excluding information that might not support his claims. Of course, conclusions should always be drawn based on all evidence, for and against, however, if more evidence exists for a claim would one not be inclined to believe it?
I’m not sure where to stand in this debate, but I do know that I haven’t much faith in what Andrew Dillon has to offer after watching this video. He seems quick to criticize and incapable of supporting his own claims.
Sure, it seems plausible that in this day and age, people are spending more time online than in person and this could negatively impact our physical and mental health, but I would certainly need more convincing research to buy into the fact that it could lead to dementia or cancer.
Many studies exist that link internet use to mental health issues.
“After 1 to 2 years, increased use of the Internet was associated with decreased family communication and reduced size of local social circle. In addition, the participants experienced increased loneliness and depression. Increases in loneliness and decreases in social support were particularly pronounced for the youth.”
Conversely, there’s evidence suggesting that social networking online may have no effect and may even benefit individuals:
“The results show that the Internet was adopted sooner by individuals with high financial, human and social capital. Furthermore, the results suggest that Internet use is not associated with a reduction in respondents' networks or with the time they spent socializing with friends. Instead the findings suggest that the time users devote to the Internet is taken away from the time they spend on watching television.”
Despite the controversy, there is obviously a clear distinction between virtual and reality, but there is no conclusive evidence that suggests Facebook is neither harmful nor beneficial to one’s mental health at this point in time. I suppose, my humble opinion would be like anything else; all things in moderation.
An overview of Dr. Sigman’s findings can be read here.
Psychologist alleges that too much time online causes major health risks
Social Capital and the Internet: Evidence from Swiss Panel Data
The Relationship Of Internet Use To Depression And Social Isolation Among Adolescents