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What Is Facebook Doing to Our Brains?

Facebook affects nearly everyone who has access to the Internet, boasting a massive 800 million users worldwide. It is the preferred method of communication for many, and” “Facebooking” has become more popular than making phone calls. Facebook has permeated our lives to the extent that simple words such as “post,” “like” and “status” have become more associated with their implications in the social network, than with their original definitions. Despite its eminent popularity, Facebook does receive some flack because of the obsessive character trait and ability to cause procrastination even in the most regimented individuals. The network has been accused of causing some to share their personal stories as if they were writing a live autobiography.

But how does Facebook actually affect our brains? How does it alter the way we think, and how does it really affect our thought patterns? Some of us feel anxious and unsettled when we haven’t regularly accessed Facebook, while others aren’t so bothered and scoff at those who are ‘hooked’. But why? Is there some sense of superiority in not caring about Facebook?  After all, it does contain a wealth of information that can give us numerous opportunities to connect and share. It’s a fantastic network for finding people and organizations with similar interests, and it can be a great tool for creating new ideas and innovations. But why have studies shown that the more Facebook friends a college-age student has, the poorer their social skills?

Recent studies conducted by researchers at the Welcome Trust and University College of London show that the number of Facebook friends one has is directly linked to the sizes of certain parts of the brain. The amount of grey matter – the brain tissue where mental processing takes place – seems to be larger when a person has more Facebook friends, although this observation could also be connected to their degree of social skills and awareness of surroundings. The researchers also confirmed links between the numbers of actual friends versus Facebook friends, allowing for studied speculation on how social networks mediate our interaction with the world.

Although scientists understand little about the impact of Facebook and the Internet on our brains at present, determining how the Internet affects human brains will aid neuroscience and psychological research in the coming years. Links between human brain structure and online social networking have been discovered, but more detailed investigations that also consider age, environment and other factors will be needed in order to evaluate accurate findings. We cannot escape the impact of the Internet on our brains.

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