It doesn’t seem as if Facebook could become any more intertwined with everyday life. However, recent scientific studies have shown otherwise.
Facebook is used to keep in touch with friends, play games and check out the endless posting of pictures. Even advertising is tailored specifically for each user, taking the information from their daily activities. Now the site has gone one step further: It helps users lose weight or it lets users know the size of their brain based on how many friends they have.
Have scientists run out of studies to do? It seems like they have pulled these frivolous ideas out of thin air and grabbed a few people to test them. The correlations in the following studies don’t show science at its full potential.
The weight loss study conducted by Temple, connects the use of Facebook and text messages to increased weight loss. The study was led by Melissa Napolitano, an associate professor of kinesiology and psychologist at the Center for Obesity Research and Education. It tested 52 college-age students, mostly women, during an eight-week period. There were three control groups: Group one visited a private Facebook page where they referenced weight loss tips, group two also had access to the private Facebook page and in addition, received personalized support text messages from a researcher, and group three was the control group and received no resources. In the end, group two, who had access to the private Facebook page and text messaging, lost the most weight by a five-pound average.
It may only be the start of a larger study, but these results don’t show all that much. It shows that participants may sit at home on Facebook instead of working out at a gym, which is hurting their diet. Dieters should be encouraged to get out and enjoy exercising, thus living a healthier lifestyle. They will meet people working toward similar health goals, instead of just receiving impersonal text messages. It’s a great thing to find new and innovative ways to tackle the nation’s problems with weight however, social media shouldn’t be interfering with the cure.
A more appalling study by neuroscientists from the University College London found that “brain areas linked to social skills were larger in college students with sprawling social networks than in Facebook users with fewer friends.” Scientists, using brain imaging, analyzed the brains of 165 Facebook users and found this correlation. They concluded that the more friends, the larger the brain. In an ABC news report, scientist Ryota Kanai said, “This will help us answer the question of whether the Internet is changing our brains.”
The Internet as a whole can impact people very differently than just social media alone. Just testing one website is not enough to show how the Internet is changing the brains of users. Also, taking results from only 165 college students is a large generalization about the millions of users on Facebook. There are so many variables to social media that are difficult to test, let alone devise real scientific results from.
Correlation does not equal causation. These studies might show a connection, but even more so it shows how much people waste time focusing on social media. Social media isn’t real-life interaction. People need to develop actual social skills, which social media does not help accomplish. Just because someone has a lot of friends on Facebook doesn’t mean they even know most of those people. The friend count is just a number. Facebook already intrudes into most people’s lives and it shouldn’t have such a large impact on science as well.
Sarae Gdovin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.