Does Facebook Make You Smarter?

Learning Through Social Media


Five years ago, as a parent, I would have been hard-pressed to advocate a form of social media to improve my children’s intelligence. However, at a conference this past week, psychologist Tracy Alloway explained how her research suggests otherwise- at least in part.

Dr. Alloway has been studying the effects of social media onworking memory—the ability to draw connections between information, to quickly shift from one task to another, and to calmly manage multiple streams of information—for the past decade. Her research has led to the conclusion that Facebook users have higher working memory scores compared to that of Twitter or YouTube users.

Perhaps these differences are attributed to the structural differences of the sites; Facebook is extremely versatile, allowing users to play games, view friends’ photos, and chat all in the same interface, whereas Twitter users “receive an endless stream of information, but it’s also very succinct. You don’t have to process that information. Your attention span is being reduced and you’re not engaging your brain and improving nerve connections,” Dr. Alloway claims.

Dr. Alloway was equally critical of any activity that could be deemed “instant”- whether it was texting or watching a video online. She contrasted these activities to those that could enhance working memory, such as strategy video games or Sudoku. These require more in-depth thinking, more tracking of past actions, and more mapping of future events.

So, has the rise of technology and the internet made our brains lazy? I believe that it has made us more efficient by eliminating the old school method of rote memorization. With the advent of Google and countless other search engines, we truly have the world at our fingertips- easily accessible with just the click of the mouse.

Let me know what you think! Post your comments and thoughts below.