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6 Scientific Reasons Social Networks Are Bad for Society

We've always known that computer networks would destroy the world. We just thought they'd get super-intelligent first. Instead, we got social networks, which act as a stupidity X-ray: You suddenly see through the intelligent people your friends pretend to be to the LOLing Farmville players underneath. Some smart people decided to study these networks, and found that they're a bigger threat to society than Skynet. At least the rise of those machines forced us to band together and do things.


More real social interaction than all of MySpace.

Everyone (Correctly) Assumes You're an Egocentric Asshole

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PDF: "Narcissism and Social Networking Web Sites"

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34 (10), 2008, p 1303-1314

Narcissism is excessive self-love, inflated self-importance and unjustified feelings of entitlement. Along with electrons, it is the primary active ingredient in the Internet. Three years ago, psychologists decided to publish a research paper on its prevalence on social networking sites, presumably because they didn't think anyone would read the entire set of encyclopedias they could have filled, and simply publishing the words "Everything on all of them" felt too glib.

Researchers had 156 students fill out a survey called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) that forces subjects to choose between options like, "My body is nothing special" versus "I like to look at my body," and "I can learn from other people" versus "I can solve most global problems by spitting on them." Researchers then monitored the student's Facebook activity for what they called objective and subjective factors, and compared that with how they scored on the NPI. The scientists' goal was to see if they could isolate social networking behaviors that were more narcissistic, and to boil down complex human emotions into numbers, because that's like oxygen to them.

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An 8.7 on the It-normalized Birthday Trauma scale according to Science.

The scientists also got strangers to rate these profiles online, and an above-average 100 of the students were female so the scientists clearly know how to get strangers to look at things online. The nine scales used included Attractiveness, Sexiness, Provocativeness and Fun. There's a chance these "scientists" were Internet-porn's R&D division.

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Quantum communications will revolutionize streaming of our GILF threesomes!

For users of social networking, the results were not encouraging. Narcissism ratings were higher in every single category, including how narcissistic people assume you are just for having an account. Posting large amounts of information on your profile page was both perceived as narcissistic by others, and more common among narcissists. According to the study, a typical interaction on a social networking site is like a whirlwind of self-obsessed assholery: You think you're just filling out a profile, but others (correctly) assume you're an asshole for expecting strangers to care about your forty favorite movies despite doing the exact same thing themselves. So everyone is thinking, Look at this douchebag talking about things that aren't me.

Meanwhile, people viewing your profile encourage your narcissism. For instance, another big indicator was "provocative pictures," aka "You're not fooling anyone by casually posting pictures like that." Strangers realize you desperately want people to stare at you (while staring at you).

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Omigawd, nearly forgot to set the webcam before "accidentally" leaning forward too far!

The only negative correlation was "entertaining quotes," implying that people who post funny material online are the opposite of narcissistic. Which might mean "hate themselves." Short form: If you don't think you're inherently worth looking at, you try to be funny instead. You now understand stand-up comedy.

Thousands of Friends Means None

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"The relationship between number of friends and interpersonal impressions on Facebook"

Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13 (2008) 531-549

If someone tells you they have 4,000 friends, chances are they're including you as one of them despite having just made sure it's not the case. When you hit four digits, you have a worse definition of friends than Boo Radley, and he still spent time interacting with his friends. Michigan State University researchers studied the relationship between number of friends and actual popularity, and found that the fourth digit of friends means you're likely getting the two longest digits on the hand from a good portion of them. We not only know you don't have three thousand friends, which is stupid, but we automatically know you don't even have three or you wouldn't have time to sit clicking "Add Friend" every night.

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God, I wish my son would go out and take drugs. Maybe get some girls pregnant.

One-hundred and fifty-three students filled out surveys and rated fake Facebook profiles on social and physical attractiveness. These fake profiles were identical except for the number of friends listed. The scientists noticed a hill-shaped relationship between friends and attractiveness: Having more friends means you're more attractive, up to what they mysteriously failed to call the "Bullshit Threshold." At a certain point (around a thousand friends) you start looking as bad as people with only few, and even more desperate.


This is what it looks like when a scientist calls you NEEEERRRRRRD!

The scientists also analyzed the participating students. One claimed to have over 2,700 friends, and the scientists added a footnote with all the statistics re-calculated without that person. Even in a study about how many friends imaginary accounts could pretend to have, the researchers looked at this asshole and said, "They're so stupid it's throwing off our math."

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They also confirmed Tila Tequila as the most unpopular person on the planet.

They're Reinstalling Sexism

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"The Role of Friends' Appearance and Behavior on Evaluations of Individuals on Facebook: Are We Known by the Company We Keep?"

Human Communication Research 34 (2008) 28-49

Obviously, negative gender stereotypes exist on the Internet, because it's 90 percent porn. But at least they're getting paid for it. Every other woman gets it for free. Judging others by a picture is apparently a recipe for turning people into assholes -- interacting with a monitor and keyboard means people feel less empathy. They also don't bother pretending to be nice, which is a pity, because "pretending to be nice" is pretty much what made the nonwarring part of human history possible.

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Reversing the polarity of "civil."

A group of 389 students got course credit for letting older men and women watch them use the Internet, so that's good future career training (they were all taking "communications degrees" so it's nice to have options other than communicating a request for fries with that). Just like all innocent scientific experiments involving groups of teenagers, the results were horrifying: enough sexism to make Sterling Cooper look like the Mother Goddess Freegan Collective.


If you sit on me we use less sofa material, saving the environment.

The researchers set up fake Facebook profiles for student girls who got trashed and slept with nasty slobs (it's nice to see science is only a few years behind porn technology) and their research paper explained, "Typographical errors in these messages were intentional and reflect common writing characteristics in Facebook postings." Well done, Internet, you now write so poorly, literate people have to explain it to each other. They then set up the exact same profiles with pictures of guys. The result?

"Negatively valenced messages about certain moral behaviors increased male profile owners' perceived physical attractiveness, although they caused females to be viewed as less attractive."

Translation: guys are studs, girls are sluts, what else is new? But the scientists were worried that Facebook is resurrecting more ancient sexism than a group of cheerleaders having a sleepover in Castle Dracula. With more people interacting online every day, externality of gonads is once again becoming a disproportionately advantageous factor. Especially considering how it's a weak point in any style of combat.

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My 20 percent higher wages!

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