News Column

Social Media: Weighing Dumbness One Byte at a Time

Nov. 19, 2012

Jay Cronley, World Staff Columnist

texting

According to an article in "Trends in Genetics," a Stanford biochemist studied thousands of brains and things and concluded that humans were becoming measurably dumber.

Hang on a second. Let me turn down the TV. There's a sit-com on. It's about fake straights and gays thrown together as roommates. Watching TV and issuing shout-outs to the public about nutty stuff is part of my job.

That's better. I changed channels to a show about the likable homicidal maniac.

Getting back to the article, and premise, about a dumber state of things, a link with an expanding social media and an elevated state of dopiness is drawn by some.

How smart do you have to be to spread hate and anger anonymously on the Internet?

According to Nielsen, the rating organization, the average person visits 2,500 web pages a month and spends less than one minute on each.

One moment, please. Incoming from a smartphone: Somebody I hardly know asks how am I. I am fine.

Getting back to the possible contributing elements of encroaching dumbness, another study broke into three categories the communications of people who spent seven hours a month on Facebook: conversational material, pass-along issues, pointless babble.

Pointless babble accounted for 40 percent of what transpired on this social media outlet.

Hold, please: Lots of information is at our fingertips.

One Sunday newspaper can contain more information than somebody living 100 years ago could attain in a lifetime.

But intelligence is more than the retention of facts. Goofball actors can recall world-wide events that transpired on every day of their lives but might need help in forming a complete sentence.

Dustin Hoffman's Rain Man knew everything, but needed assistance in crossing a busy street.

True, SpellCheck is easy on the brain.

True, Wikipedia often comes close.

But a quest for knowledge that can lead to a bettered mankind has to be an eternal human condition. We can't be getting dumber.

Hang on a second.

There's an update on the head of the CIA who was caught in an affair. Seems he sent more incriminating emails than was first imagined. Just typed in some pretty raunchy stuff and hit "send" as though the remnants of his desires would soon vanish, poof, like that, into thin air.

Now, where were we?



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