When I was your age, I’d tell a young student today, the TV was the evil in the house. My parents would tell me not to study in front of the TV (eventually I complied by not studying at all, which explains why I became a blogger, perhaps). My dad constantly harped about sitting “too close” to the TV. When my sister helped carry me out of the house with what turned out to be appendicitis in my junior year in high school, I overheard my dad tell my mother, “I told him not to sit so close to the TV.”
But you’ve got the designated evil in your house too, students of today. It’s Facebook.
Take this study, for example, from professor Paul Kirschner in The Netherlands, as reported by The Daily Mail: “Using Facebook ‘can lower exam results by up to 20%.”
The study involves 219 students at an unnamed American university. Facebook users had a typical grade point average of 3.06. Non-users had an average GPA of 3.82.
But look closer and see if you can spot a similarity.
‘The problem is that most people have Facebook or other social networking sites, their emails and maybe instant messaging constantly running in the background while they are carrying out other tasks.
‘Our study, and other previous work, suggests that while people may think constant task-switching allows them to get more done in less time, the reality is it extends the amount of time needed to carry out tasks and leads to more mistakes.’
The study is actually not about whether Facebook users are as smart as non-Facebook users. It’s whether using Facebook while studying is better than not using it. And who doesn’t already know that any distraction — TV, Facebook, phone calls, music, blogs — makes processing information more difficult? You can’t get a decent headline out of that.
What the study doesn’t say is whether people who never use Facebook are smarter than people who do.
For the record, I use Facebook. I just take care not to sit too close to it.