In Excess

Gambling, Gaming and Extreme Behavior

The screening of life

In households across many countries across the world the scene is the same. Hundreds of thousands of youngsters are spending countless hours on social networking sites like Facebook or on internet sites such as YouTube. But should this be a concern to parents, or to society in general? Read More

The Down Sides

While I wouldn't say that the negatives outweigh the positives, I'm reluctant to say that "the advantages of being online, and on social networking websites, far outweigh the negatives." In fact, it doesn't take a lot of searching through PT (blogs) to find additional negatives.

One well-known negative is that additional screen time amounts to reduced physical activity. That can't be good for a person's health in the long run. It's worse when you consider that screen time usually accompanies sitting, and many studies have already stated the adverse health effects of sitting.

Just yesterday, there was a PT blog post about the way kids crave attention, but that the wealth of information online creates "a poverty of attention". In addition, other psychologists have pointed out that the immediacy with which people can obtain information from the internet is depleting people's abilities to delay gratification. I'm not so sure shorter attention spans and reduced abilities to delay gratification is such a good thing.

There's also growing concern that people (especially the younger generation) are losing their abilities to process non-verbal communication. Since most online communication modes (e.g. tweets, comments, etc.) do not have video components, people have less experience reading facial expressions and body language. Yet, in the "real" world, non-verbal communication can provide a wealth of information about a person.

Let's not forget that social media also presents a desire to share every moment of your life with others. Several PT bloggers have already pointed out that people's desires to share moments take away from their ability to be present in the moment (i.e. mindful), which is said to improve happiness.

The Internet's done a lot of good for people, but there are plenty of down sides too if you dare to look for them.

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Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit in the Psychology Division at Nottingham Trent University (UK).

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