For many of us, Facebook is where we read a lot of our daily news and trivia– specifically at those times when we are not looking for it.
Roughly two-thirds (64%) of U.S. adults use the site, and half of those users get news there—amounting to 30% of the general population, according to Pew Research.
The more we share, the more these stories circulate around the social media block and there are no limits to how many articles we skim through on a daily basis.
Websites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy depend on this Facebook traffic.
While our Facebook referrals help these websites draw more eyeballs, most of us do not realize how this voracious appetite to consume news tit bits is affecting our brains.
Author of The Art of Thinking Clearly: Better Thinking, Better Decisions, Rob Dobelli published a piece in the Guardian last year that made me think twice about the way I was reading online news, especially via social media.
“ Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes. News makes us shallow thinkers.”
Let’s take how long on average we spend on Facebook at work. One doesn’t need to through statistics your way. You know who you are. And if you happen to be like many people I know, you probably spend at least 2 hours of your 8-10 hour shift procrastinating by browsing through copious amounts of photo graphs and irrelevant information. During which time you will breeze through several online stories, without actually thinking about any of them.
The author goes into detail about the neurological impact of online skimming and how It leads to fear and aggression, and hinders one’s creativity.
To cut a long story short, online news consumption today may be making us dumber.
So don’t get anxious when you’re cut off from the flow of news – your actually better off.
The irony is that I read the Guardian article because my friend shared it on Facebook.
The social networking site has also enriched the lives of millions of people all over the world in the most profound way. Facebook is only as good or bad as its users, so be smart about your online reading and be cognizant of its effects.
Perhaps Facebook’s new ‘Paper’ App reduces the distracting effects of news consumption through the social networking interface. The app aims to organize and aggregate news stories from your news feed and other sources, in a more cohesive way.
Happy 10th Birthday Facebook!
To see how far it has come, click on the infographic below.