Much has been made of the social, emotional, and intellectual implications of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Some studies suggest that they can contribute to depressive symptoms while others feel they foster a sense of a global community.
However a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests that Facebook can help improve brain function. The study, conducted at University College London, found a strong correlation between the amount of Facebook friends an individual has with the density of gray matter in the amygdala, an area of the brain associated with forming real-life social networks. But the good news doesn't stop there. The study also found that gray matter density was found in the right entorhinal cortex, which is associated with memory.
Ultimately, the study suggests that "the size of an individual's online social network is closely linked to focal brain structure implicated in social cognition."
The upside to using social networking websites doesn't stop with brain function. These sites can do the following:
1. Contribute to learning. Sure social media is a stronghold for YouTube videos and gossip. However, they can also be utilized to access educational material, information about current events, and new trends. Social media provides a hub for all things informational—educational and otherwise.
2. Help develop social and technical skills. In a study entitled "The Digital Youth Project" conducted at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Berkeley, researchers found that students who spent time online and on social media sites pick up fluency in social and technical skills that they need to be capable citizens in the digital age.
3. Foster social communities. Even the most introverted individuals can find people in online communities with similar interests, beliefs, or lifestyles. Those who suffer from social anxieties can feel secure behind the protection of their computers and engage others in a way that they feel comfortable and that would not be otherwise accessible to them.
4. Create a sense of "virtual empathy." Young adults who spend time on social media sites tend to show what experts call "virtual empathy." Many teens will express sorrowfulness when a friend posts statuses about a bad day or loss in the family.
American Psychological Association
Social Networking's Good and Bad Impacts on Kids
Proceedings of the Royal Society B
Online social network size is reflected in human brain structure
- ^ Medical Advisory Board (www.qualityhealth.com)
- ^ http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2011/08/social-kids.aspx (www.apa.org)
- ^ http://digitalyouth.ischool.berkeley.edu/report (digitalyouth.ischool.berkeley.edu)
- ^ http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2011/10/12/rspb.2011.1959.full (rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org)