Either overusing the internet destroys your brain, or it doesn’t. If it does then I apologize (I’m assuming that as you’re reading this humble blog instead of, say, Art Project, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, or Celebrity Bitch Fest [Scarlett Johansson said WHAT?] then you probably are “overusing” the internet to some extent). If it doesn’t then I don’t (if you’re still with me (which you are (because of your perfect brain))).
Last week, several news outlets — the vast majority of which have websites that they openly encourage you to read — reported on new research suggesting that adolescents who spend lots of time on the internet show structural differences in their brains. Ergo: “Internet Addiction Changes Your Brain,” declared the Toronto Sun, “Addicted! Scientists show how internet dependency alters the brain,” warned The Independent, “Internet addiction can cause physical damage to the brain, just like drugs, say researchers,” said the Daily Mail, etc., etc., etc.
The study, published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE, compared 16 “healthy” adolescents with 17 adolescents with “Internet Addiction Disorder” (or IAD), and found differences in the structure of the white matter in their brains. Specifically, the IAD group had lower fractional anisotropy throughout their brains, which sounds pretty full-on. So it’s official. Overusing the internet causes kids’ brains to disappear. More or less.
Except of course…*drum roll*…no, it doesn’t. Not really. In fact, if anything, it’s the other way round. What’s of interest here is that, by and large, most media coverage has effectively reported this news in reverse, missing the point of the original research (but, admittedly, only by a few centuries). Here we have a plain old correlation-causation fallacy, one with dualistic — or even religious — undertones.
Now, I bet you didn’t see that coming. Continue reading “It’s official! Internet overuse causes brain damage! Oh wait…no, it doesn’t…”