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February 19, 2009 8:58 AM   Subscribe

Dr. Aric Sigman has told us that TV is literally killing us, that it makes children pregnant, that Batman makes our kids violent and that multitasking ruins children's attention span. Now he says that social networking can cause cancer, strokes, and dementia. (PDF of press release)
posted by desjardins (58 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Excitable chap.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:00 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let's just get this out of the way: [username] doesn't even own a television.
posted by resurrexit at 9:01 AM on February 19, 2009 [8 favorites]


He rubbed the pot roast all over his chest.
posted by echo target at 9:02 AM on February 19, 2009 [7 favorites]


Real life trolling to increase book sales, not reading, don't care.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:03 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


(Just to be clear about the title - I am not making fun of people with dementia, which is a terrible condition that has ravaged several of my family members, none of who have ever used a computer. I am making fun of the author)
posted by desjardins at 9:04 AM on February 19, 2009


I'm all for moderating TV viewing (our is upstairs and generally only used for PS2 games and Netflix rentals), but really. This is a bit over the top, no? And he's not even dancing in any of these shots.
posted by jquinby at 9:07 AM on February 19, 2009


Get off my lawn! You're...uh..giving it schizophrenia!
posted by troubles at 9:07 AM on February 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


I am eagerly subscribing to his newsletter in hopes of tips for protecting my precious bodily fluids.
posted by DU at 9:10 AM on February 19, 2009


This guy must be a real joy at parties.
posted by brundlefly at 9:12 AM on February 19, 2009


I believe he's married to her.
posted by jbickers at 9:15 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Social networking Web sites such as Facebook and MySpace may increase the risk of health problems as serious as cancer, strokes and dementia by altering the way genes work, according to a report in the Biologist journal.

The number of minutes per day Britons interact with other humans has fallen by two thirds in recent decades, from six hours in 1987 to two hours in 2007, Aric Sigman wrote...


Oh FFS. I hate both FaceBook and MySpace, but there is no denying that you are "interacting with other humans" on those sites.

For example, Sigman looked at studies of women at risk of cardiovascular disease and found those with larger social circles had wider arteries and those with smaller social circles had narrower arteries and twice the death rate. All studies show the same pattern...

I don't see anything here about social networking sites. Or did he just define the internet as non-social and lump it in without isolating that variable?
posted by DU at 9:16 AM on February 19, 2009


Maybe I'm doing this wrong, but I'll give it a go:

If: TV = bad

and: Internet/computers = bad

then: alcohol = good?
posted by ob at 9:17 AM on February 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


What is up with the travel section of his site?
North Korea. Bhutan. Myanmar (not Burma). China.

Has a thing for Authoritarian governments?
posted by munchingzombie at 9:19 AM on February 19, 2009


After living in Los Angeles, I firmly believe that networking parties cause extreme irritability, high blood pressure and problem drinking in those not in "the biz."
posted by giraffe at 9:21 AM on February 19, 2009


I am making fun of the author

desjardins: You take that back. Several members of my family are authors, and I assure you it's no laughing matter.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:24 AM on February 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


After living in Los Angeles, I firmly believe that networking parties cause extreme irritability, high blood pressure and problem drinking in those not in "the biz."

What is a "networking party?" I have lived here 10 years, I make movies, and I have never been to or heard of one. I would like to hear someone use the term "the biz" in seriousness though- I think I would fall on the floor laughing.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:24 AM on February 19, 2009


social networking can cause cancer, strokes, and dementia.

Well, that explains why I keep missing those invitations on my Facebook page. It's not the bad design of Facebook, it's my brain!
posted by happyroach at 9:24 AM on February 19, 2009


did you know tv can also cause autism. in fact i think any noun can.
posted by bhnyc at 9:26 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Balderdash. And this is from the guy who doesn't have a TV any more.
posted by Michael Roberts at 9:28 AM on February 19, 2009


MySpace = Cancer
Facebook = Stroke
Twitter = Dementia
MetaFilter = Exploding Head Syndrome
posted by burnmp3s at 9:28 AM on February 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


I know a young girl married to a TV. Shotgun wedding after the TV got her pregnant.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:29 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is hardly worth debunking but:

For example, Sigman looked at studies of women at risk of cardiovascular disease and found those with larger social circles had wider arteries and those with smaller social circles had narrower arteries and twice the death rate. All studies show the same pattern...


Maybe because the really unhealthy people CAN'T go out because they're REALLY FREAKING UNHEALTHY! Correlation != causality always seems to be the first casuality in these anti-tv/anti-internet/"I fear what is new- let's smash it with a rock!" arguments- this guy just takes it to the logical extremes.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:29 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


first "casualty" I mean
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:31 AM on February 19, 2009


I see that Dr. Wertham has re-incarnated.

He's still an asshole.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:33 AM on February 19, 2009


MetaFilter: Exploding Head Syndrome
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:42 AM on February 19, 2009


Y'all are gonna give DecemberBoy a stroke.
posted by sidereal at 9:44 AM on February 19, 2009


What is a "networking party?" I have lived here 10 years, I make movies, and I have never been to or heard of one. I would like to hear someone use the term "the biz" in seriousness though- I think I would fall on the floor laughing.

Okay, it wasn't called a networking party. A friend would invite me to a super-fun holiday party and really it would be a bunch of recent college grads exchanging business cards and asking if I went to Newhouse. Uh, I had a lame admin job at UCLA and an English degree. I showed up to get drunk, eat half a bag of Doritos and wear holiday-appropriate headgear. Maybe it's a freelance television work thing?
posted by giraffe at 9:48 AM on February 19, 2009


This FPP has a fever, and the only cure is more cowball.
posted by Poolio at 9:55 AM on February 19, 2009


I see that Dr. Wertham has re-incarnated.

You know what's really interesting- Dr. Wertham actually did some pretty cool work with free mental health care in Harlem. I was in a sociology class, and they brought him up, and I was like, oh, the comic book guy?
....
He did more than hate comics, is what that is.
posted by 235w103 at 9:56 AM on February 19, 2009


Correlation not causation, what?

And it's odd that his list of commissioning parties seems to conflict with his viewpoints of certain things. Shouldn't we be talking to a live travel agent instead of using Expedia? And buying books, movies, music, and whatnot in real stores instead of using Amazon?

Maybe things will change with this new Batman (who didn't kill the Joker because he didn't want to become one of them, or something like that), but school violence dropped from 1992 and 2002. Retaining violent images as if they were real, becoming desensitized to video game violence, and actually doing something are very much different. Most people live out fantasies of some sort through video games. Sometimes they're violent, sometimes not. But they're fantasies, not realities. What if violent video games helped work out aggression from people who needed an outlet? Hmm, what if ...

I'll get off the soapbox. This is nothing new. Turn around and ignore the guy. Maybe he can join Jack Thompson and scowl at us from the corner.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:58 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I actally did know that, 235, but I also know that more people are familiar with him because of his misguided take on horror comics. Unfortunately that clusterfuck really obscured the other work he did.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:59 AM on February 19, 2009


I wondered who'd replace Jack Thompson. Now we know.
posted by sotonohito at 9:59 AM on February 19, 2009


Schizophrenic Lawn is a beautiful something for a something.

And yes, Wertham got kinda of a bad rap, he was also concerned with the poor quality of the art/writing in the books, as well as their immoral message. ...and his methodology was totally flawed ( kids in juvie really like comic books -- comic books make kids violent! It's like only meet homosexuals in institutions who want to be cured -- homosexuality must be a disease! I think, if I'm remembering my history)
posted by The Whelk at 10:04 AM on February 19, 2009


We've all been Amusing Ourselves to Death for decades now.
posted by Sailormom at 10:05 AM on February 19, 2009


Now he says that social networking can cause cancer, strokes, and dementia.

This could help a lot of people in keeping their moms off Facebook.
posted by orme at 10:07 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, no wonder I'm nuts. I've been online or at a computer more or less non-stop since about 1983. I should totally be dead.

If it wasn't for BBSes and the internet I might have killed myself for lack of people I could relate to.
posted by loquacious at 10:20 AM on February 19, 2009


Do you know how I first became familiar with this guy? Because he was the agony uncle on a popular kids tv Saturday morning show.
posted by mippy at 10:26 AM on February 19, 2009


He sure says a lot of things. But does he say which brand of tinfoil makes the best hats?
posted by tommasz at 11:01 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have not read scientific papers by this author, but I do agree with the premise that television is not beneficial to society. Cialdini discusses the effects of TV on people and comes up with some surprising conclusions about what types of behavior they can influence. Causality is obviously very tricky here, but it seems that TV watching and solitary activities are closely linked which Putnam identifies as a factor in the breakdown of american society.

I do recognize that I have slightly extreme views on this topic, but I am grateful that my parents prevented me from watching much TV during my childhood, as I think it helped me develop a more creative way of thinking. Again, not necessarily causal, but I feel that I would not have been quite as active or creative as a child if I watched TV for four hours every day.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 11:10 AM on February 19, 2009


I've been having some real heinous short term memory problems lately (I lost my wallet AND locked myself out of my apartment yesterday... until I found my keys in my own coat pocket. And found my wallet at work.) - and hey! It's nice to have a scapegoat! It's totally not my neuroactive medication! It's the TELEVISION and the fact that it EXISTS.

My parents used to have a "Kill Your Television" bumper sticker (and a television, oddly enough) and now I know. It wasn't a political statement. It was a public health directive.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:10 AM on February 19, 2009


"Kill Your Television... Before It Kills You"
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:54 AM on February 19, 2009


Good Lord....I can only imagine what googling Ron Paul could do to you.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:08 PM on February 19, 2009


Harlan? Is that you?
posted by The Whelk at 1:16 PM on February 19, 2009


Sigman looked at studies of women at risk of cardiovascular disease and found those with larger social circles had wider arteries and those with smaller social circles had narrower arteries and twice the death rate. All studies show the same pattern, he said.

“We probably have an evolutionary protective mechanism...


I wish most people would just laugh and begin counting all the gigantic leaps of reasoning it took to get from point A to point B when someone makes such dire predictions as emphatically as this article does.
posted by Avelwood at 2:09 PM on February 19, 2009


One way you know this theory about Social Networking is cuckoo is if you take the opposite position.
He says because Social Networking takes human contact out of the equation it harms us.
The opposite would be that human contact actually harms us because when we are in each others presence we spread germs to one another and pass along things such as any number of viruses you can name.
Therefore, isn't it better that we Social Network so we don't have to deal with the harm that physical interaction with one another can cause?
Anyway, the only creedence anyone should give this crackpot's view is how one can tweak it for their own humorous interpretation.
posted by Rashomon at 2:49 PM on February 19, 2009


Clearly, women with poorer circulation have less energy to make friends.

What a dork.
posted by Michael Roberts at 2:49 PM on February 19, 2009


This guy overstates the case in an absurd way but there's an enormous amount of research showing that having strong social connections is healthy. In fact, you are far less likely to be healthy avoiding people to avoid germs than you are if you embrace lots of people in a big germy hug.

We're a social species and isolation can literally kill: being lonely *does* increase the risk for all kinds of negative health outcomes and being happily married/partnered/surrounded by a community of friends/family reduces such risks.

And yes, that includes risk for cardiovascular disease.

This goes back to the way we develop: human contact teaches us how to modulate stress as infants and children. If it doesn't because we're abused or traumatized, we're at high risk for all of the problems associated with uncontrollable stress: heart disease, stroke, addictions, obesity, mental illness, etc. There's a linear relationship between childhood stressors and these problems in later life.

Even as adults, if we have a good relationship with our parents, they can lower our blood pressure just by holding our hands. So, for humans, social contact is the best way to modulate and cope with uncontrollable stress. It's certainly healthier than alcohol in excess, drugs in excess, overeating, overgambling, and yes, overdoing screentime.

Where screentime is problematic is where it substitutes for genuine social interaction, not when it supplements it.

Robert Putnam-- as mentioned above-- has looked at how Americans are less connected to each other, how voter participation has declined, how trust between people has declined, how people have fewer confidants and more fragile relationships during the time when TV became widely available and women entered the workforce in large numbers. He's not arguing we should go back to 50's housewives or chuck TV or the internet.

However, social capital is precious. Countries with low social capital are places where the only people you can trust are members of your tribe. This foils the development of functional markets and creates endemic corruption which further erodes trust and blocks economic growth.

Unfortunately, functioning markets can undermine social capital by having people substitute time with things like TV's and computers and working alone for time with people. Inequality rises, decreasing our empathy for each other.

That reduces trust more, increases corruption and can lead to a spiral of fear which takes us even further from being able to connect with each other. Sound kinda familiar?

the soundbite tv and internet will kill you is foolish-- the underlying idea that we are in major trouble if we don't maintain social capital and that these things can undercut it is not.
posted by Maias at 3:55 PM on February 19, 2009


This guy overstates the case in an absurd way but there's an enormous amount of research showing that having strong social connections is healthy.

Ok, I can't stand it anymore...these kind of articles just make my head explode.

Yes, social connections are healthy. You know what, there is also an ENORMOUS amount of research that shows that the internet FOSTERS SOCIAL INTERACTION.

Sorry for the shouting, but I just spent an entire class today trying to disabuse my students of the notion that the internet makes people anti-social.

Numerous studies show, for example, that email users actually have *more* F2F and phone contact with their ties than non-email users. Internet users on average have *larger* social networks than non-users. Internet users actually have *more* social capital than non-users.

With all due respect to Putnam, there is quite a lot of really compelling evidence that suggests that his conclusions were flawed, or possibly wring.

You know what activities internet use has been shown to take away from? Watching TV and sleeping. That's right, internet users watch LESS TV than non-users.

The sleeping thing is really the only aspect that could be negative, health-wise.

The Pew Internet & American Life project is just one of the many sources where you can find quality social science research on this topic.

/rant
posted by DiscourseMarker at 4:30 PM on February 19, 2009


*wrong, not wring :(
posted by DiscourseMarker at 4:31 PM on February 19, 2009


Maybe you cross-posted with me-- or missed it, Discourse, but i said very clearly in my post:

Where screentime is problematic is where it substitutes for genuine social interaction, not when it supplements it.

So, your rant sort of missed if you were trying to critique my critique...
posted by Maias at 6:29 PM on February 19, 2009


Maias, I did miss that sentence, but I wonder what you mean by "screen time"? And also, who is the judge of what is "genuine social interaction"?

There are always statistical outliers in any population, so doubtless there are people who do use technology, but do not engage with others. My guess would be that these people would have the same problems with or without the internet.

So I get what you're saying, but I would also reinforce that there is not really the evidence (at least for US internet users) that screentime does, in fact, substitute for "genuine social interaction" for the majority of users.

At least one of the linked articles refers to the UK, and I'm not up on UK internet stats, so I can't say with any certainty that the situation is the same, although my guess would be that it is pretty similar.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 6:53 PM on February 19, 2009


What I mean by screentime is just TV, internet and videogames.

And by genuine social interaction, nothing complicated: just interacting with a person, not a computer. It can be with a person via a computer, but this can't help with reading social cues or being touched, which are important parts of the fullest social interactions.

While it's true that internet use is supplanting TV in some cases and that's good in terms of substituting some social interaction for none, the fact remains that all measures of social capital like having someone you can confide in (a full quarter of the U.S. population says they have no one at all!) and saying most people can be trusted, have declined dramatically in recent decades.

So, while the net may be better than TV, it hasn't solved this problem. And for kids-- whose social brains are being wired in the first place-- there's good evidence that we're not giving them enough time for social interaction with actual people where they can learn to read social cues-- and that can't be done online. Now, screentime is only one part of a much bigger problem here related to overscheduling middle class kids, overstressing poor kids, lack of parental leave, etc. and is often a symptom not necessarily a cause-- but it can be part of the problem, which is all I was saying.
posted by Maias at 5:56 AM on February 20, 2009


Maybe I'm doing this wrong, but I'll give it a go:

If: TV = bad

and: Internet/computers = bad

then: alcohol = good?


Yes.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:04 AM on February 20, 2009


that email users actually have *more* F2F and phone contact with their ties than non-email users

So not knowing anything about aything to do with any of this: Do studies show if those two are causative in any way? Do people with more phone/F2F contact just use email more? Or do people who use email more also happen to then have more phone/F2F contact?
I would think it's the former, as most kids tend to start out with F2F contact and move onto using computers, though I suppose it could just be a personality type (i.e., be in contact with people, whether F2F or email).
Anyone?
posted by niles at 7:11 PM on February 20, 2009


> ...the fact remains that all measures of social capital like having someone you can confide in (a full quarter of the U.S. population says they have no one at all!)...

Mias: Citation?
posted by simoncion at 12:12 AM on February 22, 2009


citation is in this article.
posted by Maias at 12:02 PM on February 23, 2009


So not knowing anything about aything to do with any of this: Do studies show if those two are causative in any way? Do people with more phone/F2F contact just use email more? Or do people who use email more also happen to then have more phone/F2F contact?

Er, I'm not sure what the difference is between these two statements, and I don't think there's any way to prove *causation* in social research. But the patterns of usage are related.For example, email use is related to the number of significant ties as well as to total network size. In addition, the higher percentage of core toes contacted by email, the higher the percentage of core ties that are contacted by phone and IM. There is a lot more here.

But to add insight from another direction, studies that have looked at language and various forms of computer-mediated communication have found some interesting things, namely that quite a lot of the content of text messaging, for example, is about coordination, i.e. messages about meeting up, etc. There were some older studies that found similar things about IM among college students. So one possible explanation is that a primary function of CMC technologies is to arrange for other social interactions (by phone or F2F), thereby increasing the total amount of communication across all media.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:30 PM on February 24, 2009


Oh, also, regarding the USA today article, they site the GSS regarding social capital, but the Pew study I cited above has decidedly different results, and a critique of why their measure of social capital might be wrong. Pew finds Americans have much larger social networks, including both core and significant ties, than the GSS. So again, I'm not really convinced that Americans *do* have less social capital.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:32 PM on February 24, 2009


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