Are Social Networks Messing with Your Head?

I have a feature article in the January/February issue of Scientific American Mind about the psychoemotional effects of social networking. A preview of the article is online here, and hard copy is available on newsstands.  

Several months back I started following the debate about the role of social network sites like Facebook in fostering loneliness, affecting self-esteem and bolstering narcissism. As is often the case, the debate seemed more about presuppositions and agendas, and less about evidence.  This article puts the emphasis solidly on evidence by reviewing a range of research findings from the last few years.  If you have a chance to read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I wish everyone a tremendous New Year. Thank you very much for reading Neuronarrative in 2009 – I’m looking forward to another year of exchanging ideas on engaging topics.  

All the best to you and yours.


Filed under About Research, Books and Ideas

4 responses to “Are Social Networks Messing with Your Head?

  1. Lee

    Your SA Mind article concludes “The danger is that the technology could limit the perspective of its users and breed insular thinking, turning us into a society of myopic cliques.”
    With or without social media technologies, the world has always been full of insular myopic cliques. Before transportation the cliques were necessarily geographical. With the Industrial Revolution communities focussed around factories and cities. With global communications and transportation they continue to be focussed on business, political and religious interests and common heritage. People have always relied on their social networks, in whatever technology, to filter their news and information and validate their community membership. Perhaps the positive advantage of the social media technologies is enabling worldwide cliques around common interests without limitations of geography, background, time, age, ethnicity?

  2. An interesting argument that we have always had cliques… be they geographical, function related etc. I guess what appeals to me about the statement is the “myopicness” of today’s cliques. In the past, regardless of the reason for the clique, we inevitably had to encounter disimilar people. Maybe they lived in our town, or maybe we had to work with them. Regardless we had to interact with them and their dissimilar views. Today, especially if I work primarily online, I can surround myself with nothing but clones. I need not read about differing political views, or “fiend” someone that I don’t like. I can surround myself and my virtual social life with only those that I agree with – hence the myopicness of todays society.

  3. I like your blog!

    Re social networking — well, I know the dangers of Facebook and all but in my small (to me), yet not tiny and rather spread out town, we use it as a kind of community bulletin board. I really like it for this, it’s useful in lots of ways.

    I blog pseudonymously/anonymously too, but it’s not to meet people, it’s to write and meditate and so on. I have commenters and I’ve met some of them but many are in faraway places and the focus is on the writing or on some issue. It’s social in the way professors reading each others’ articles is social, and it might lead to some friendships if we had the chance to meet and/or even the time to talk more.

    But the blog is not about “socializing” strictu sensu, and FB as we use it chez nous is more of a telephone and bulletin board replacement than it is about leading a virtual social life.

    I think people who are in MySpace and such may work differently, but I don’t know. Seriously though, I think a lot of what happens on social media used to happen via paper letters and telephone.

    I do realize the differences, i.e. that it’s all more public. I may not feel that as a difference the way some people do, because of having spent so much time living in places where there was a main square or other, a physical gathering place, so that the public-ness was also present in a pre 21st century way.

  4. andres


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