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Is All that Social Media Rotting Your Brain?

November 13, 2017
Is All that Social Media Rotting Your Brain?
For decades, American kids have heard the warning: “Watching all that TV will rot your brain.” But today, the warning is not just for television—and it’s not just for kids. Sean Parker, one of the co-founders of Facebook and its first president, has said the online service will mess with your mind in serious ways. And, he adds, they have know all along that it would.

Speaking with the online news website Axios, Parker, who joined Facebook in 2004 and has since become a billionaire, said that to keep users’ attention, Facebook is designed to offer messages that cause the brain to produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that can signal a “reward” for certain actions.

In order to keep users coming back to Facebook, Parker said, “We need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that's going to get you to contribute more content, and that's going to get you ... more likes and comments."

Parker also said social media sites such as Facebook “literally change your relationship with society, with each other. ... It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it's doing to our children’s brains.” Parker declared that he and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, as well as Instagram creator Kevin Systrom “understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.”

So far as we are aware, there have been no medical studies of the effects of social media on the way the brain works. But there is another area of research from which we might be able to draw some conclusions.

Remember that almost-universal parental lament that watching too much TV will “rot your brain”? Well, in 2016, Scientific American magazine reported on a Japanese university study of children's’ television viewing that showed an increase in viewing entertainment shows caused physiological changes in children’s brains. Among the conclusions: “Testing confirmed that verbal IQ scores, which measure vocabulary and language skills, fell in proportion to the hours of TV the children watched.”

What’s the answer? It’s both simple and challenging: Unplug! Take a “Digital sabbath” one day a week—we’d recommend the actual Sabbath as a good day to start. Restrict the amount of “screen time” you and your family use, especially your younger children. Get outdoors when you can. Go for a walk in your neighborhood or a hike in a forest. Begin interacting with others away from the screen world. You never know when those relationships might lead to an opportunity to share the gospel!

Learn more about the Sabbath by clicking here.
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