Bernie Goldbach in LIT-Clonmel | Cover from Newsweek
I READ THE COVERS of magazines in my local newsagency and the iCrazy one from Newsweek  made me pause. Because its "scientific evidence" falls flat.
Like other views of our connected lifestyles, the Newsweek perspective (and full page coverage in yesterday's Sunday Times from London) follows the line that all these pervasive technologies go beyond Andrew Keen's premise of making us dumber because (if you believe Newsweek's pop psychologists) our connected lifestyles mean we're getting depressed, anxious, obsessive-compulsive, attention-deficit, and psychotic. I'd believe these findings if there was any real scientific evidence.
Like Vaughn Bell explains, it's a remarkable stretch to lay blame for psychosis on the screens of Facebook and Twitter. And to affix cause without scientific proof. The environmental risk factors for psychosis extend decades before the emergence of online social networks. And the incidence rate of that mental condition has not increased with the rise of broadband. That doesn't stop Newsweek from making its claim, however.
To read Newsweek, our mobile internet existence has created "a whole new mental environment, a digital state of nature where the human mind becomes a spinning instrument panel, and few people will survive unscathed." Pharmacology professor Susan Greenfield believes "this is an issue as important and unprecedented as climate change.”
I'm no psychologist, but I have reached a point where I can recognise the social etiquette concerning the use of electronic social tools. Even though I can transcribe oral sessions with both a biro and a keyboard, I know people often resent my use of an electronic tablet. So I doodle in my Moleskine instead of tapping follow-up notes on a screen. Evernote lets me capture my doodling as follow-up to-do items, so I get electronic records all the same.
I've also reached the point where I ask creative multimedia students in the Limerick Institute of Technology to compare the 1998 Carnegie Mellon study  to the 2002 follow-up study  that offers important longitudinal analyses.
Download Internet Paradox Revisited
Unfortunately, popular psychology can damage the way we live and work with people. Items like the Newsweek story also distort the public’s understanding of mental illness and perhaps that's the most worrying about this kind of journalism.
1. Tony Dokoupil -- "Is the internet driving us mad?" is the cover story of Newsweek, July 9, 2012.
2. Robert Kraut -- "The Internet Paradox: A social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being?", The National Institute of Health, 1998.
3. Robert Kraut -- "The Internet Paradox Revisited", Journal of Social Sciences, 2002.
4. Vaughn Bell -- "No, the web is not driving us mad" in Mind Hacks, July 13, 2012.
Bernie Goldbach links to things about cyberculture.