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Study Finds Growing Up WIth Gadgets Has a Downside: Social Skill Impairment

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the huh-whadju-say-lol dept.

Cellphones 203

PolygamousRanchKid writes with this excerpt from a CNN story:"Tween girls who spend much of their waking hours switching frantically between YouTube, Facebook, television and text messaging are more likely to develop social problems, says a Stanford University study published in a scientific journal on Wednesday. Young girls who spend the most time multitasking between various digital devices, communicating online or watching video are the least likely to develop normal social tendencies, according to the survey of 3,461 American girls aged 8 to 12 who volunteered responses. The study only included girls who responded to a survey in Discovery Girls magazine, but results should apply to boys, too, Clifford Nass, a Stanford professor of communications who worked on the study, said in a phone interview. Boys' emotional development is more difficult to analyze because male social development varies widely and over a longer time period, he said."

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Seriously (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851645)

Then why do we have social networks aimed at children then?

Re:Seriously (4, Informative)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851849)

For the same reason we have TV aimed at children.

Re:Seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851913)

Say, rrohback, do you hmmmmm like bananas?

Re:Seriously (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#38853579)

same reason why marketing companies use children in study groups to find out how to better exploit them into getting their parents to buy more useless garbage... oh did i say useless garbage, i meant "learning aids"

Not News (4, Insightful)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851649)

Where do you think the whole middle-aged-guy-living-in-parents-basement meme comes from?

The only new thing here is that it happens to girls, as well as guys.

that's the truth (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851689)

The only new thing here is that it happens to girls

I've recently had the "privilege" of venturing back into the dating market after more than a year of being single. Imagine my surprise when I learned that it's virtually impossible to date these days without an unlimited texting package. Nobody knows (or at least nobody I've dated) how to talk anymore. It's as if asking for conversation in more than 160 character bites is too much. The distressing thing is that this trait seems to be independent of education and background. I've dated women with backgrounds ranging from GED to Ph.D candidate and have encountered this with all of them.

Perhaps I'm old fashioned but I'm a techno geek who still appreciates the value of a good handshake and eye contact. The lack of these skills doesn't just screw you with dating; it screws you in the business world as well.

Re:that's the truth (3, Interesting)

Cruciform (42896) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851729)

I created a profile on PoF and set the limit to 300 characters minimum to contact me.
I got a few nice messages, but then there were ones with a bunch of gibberish complaining about how they had to write so much just to make contact. It's 4 lines of text... jeez.
The period now seems to have been replaced with "lol" in most communication too. At least it weeds out the ones worth talking to.

Re:that's the truth (2, Informative)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852101)

Plenty of Fish, like most other dating sites is a scam. The profiles are fake and compiled by the company's employees. The details may change from profile to profile, but the writing styles do not. Once in a while you will get a message from a chick you want to know more about, but the messages say something brief and do not answer any questions or provide a response.

I know this unfortunate truth because each of the 3 women I was seeing(in real life) gave me an ultimatum to get serious with them or they would stop putting out. One was neurotic and was in a hurry to get knocked up, the other was retardedly dumb and incapable of two-way conversation, and the other had a boyfriend while we were boning -- yeah.

I've never relied on online dating, but I tried to give it a shot. I went to OKCupid first, but got banned permanently on my first day because I became drunk and asked a masculine-looking woman if she had a penis between her legs. Then I tried Plenty of Fish, and determined that the site was more fake than Pamela Lee's tits. E-harmony is now charging just to see others' profile pics. No thanks.

Work dating wasn't much better - I went on dates with 2 people. The first lived in a 2-bedroom apartment with her 11 siblings and said that any man she gets with would have to have a relationship with the lord. She whines and complains how she has bad luck with men, but never goes more than a week without a new boyfriend. The other just used me for attention, and even though I got a few good meals out of it, shaking hands with her son was awkward because he was only a few years younger than I was. But more to the point of the article - Today's youth are in a sad state. I'm back in junior college and in a class with a lot of young adults, and they are so overstimulated but utterly incapable of carrying on conversation about other than what is immediately happening around them. One young woman said with a straight face that she wanted to find a rich man and be a trophy wife. Others had dumb lottery-ticket fantasies about becoming rich and powerful. They have spent their entire lives watching MTV and think that is what life is actually like. They rock in place, geek, twitch, whine, tic, grunt in such an annoying fashion that I want to smack them in their mouths with a rolled-up newspaper.

Re:that's the truth (5, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852471)

I'm skeptical of online dating as well but I'm at a loss for what's better these days. I'm not into the bar/clubbing scene, so cross that off the list. I've always maintained boundaries at work and refuse to date co-workers. What does that leave? I've tried activity groups (hiking clubs and the like) but most of the people who attend those are already paired off. Church may be an option for some people but the median age at my church is around 60 so that's not going to work either.

I've actually met a few friends through OKCupid. Nothing that panned out as relationship material but if you troll through that site long enough you'll actually find decent human beings mixed in with the fake profiles/spammers and the extremely desperate. I think I've met seven or eight people through OKC and only one of them turned out to be psycho. That's probably comparable odds to meeting people in person -- anybody can pretend to be sane for the initial conversation! Sucks that you got banned from there. I wouldn't regard E-Harmony as any real loss; it's overpriced and hasn't quite escaped it's Christian roots. Unless you are a fairly religious person looking for your future spouse E-Harmony isn't likely to prove fruitful.

Re:that's the truth (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38853639)

Find a good cult like Jehovah's Witnesses, Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, Pentacostals, or Baptists where they mind fuck the kids for years and suppress them into virginity and guilt coupled with community (cult) based socialized pressure to marry within the group. Then join up, scope out, seduce the one you want (or two) and be off with them. At eighteen most are ready to take off and will jump at most any opportunity. These groups have plenty of premium girls, and even the most disgusting fat ass freak can snag a fresh teenage girl primed for loyalty and service. I've seen this happen many many times.

Ethanol-fueled, you behave now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38853843)

Anonymity can't hide your writing style.

You're just jealous that these kind of women actually know what respect is and they pick hambeast husbands and mostly compete to your career in the job market. You don't like how religion empowers women? Just remember that in religions world-wide, it is the woman that is commanded to remain quiet...because every man knows she's the only one that asked for directions and knows the answer. They are all like clones of Ada, praise the LADY.

Re:that's the truth (1)

cduffy (652) | more than 2 years ago | (#38853181)

I recently got back into the dating pool myself (Austin, early 30s), and can't say that my experiences are similar.

The women who initiated contact without solicitation have often done just as you described (and not really been a sort I was very interested in) -- but those who have gone to the effort to respond to my (longer, well-written) messages have universally responded in kind.

Then again, I don't know what target age and audience you're dealing with; if it's the early-20s crowd, I'd be very unsurprised.

You're doing it wrong. (5, Insightful)

raehl (609729) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851759)

That's because phone calls are fucking annoying.

If you want to have a conversation with someone, take them out to dinner or some other activity where you are together.

Otherwise, unless you're stuck across the country and can't see each other, stop expecting people to accept your interruptions to their day.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851923)

Well, maybe you don't have to have a continuous conversation during the whole day, as many seem to have...

Re:You're doing it wrong. (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852519)

I'm curious why you went to phone calls when I never mentioned them in my initial post?

That said, some of us do appreciate the value of hearing an actual voice and knowing we have someone's (relatively) undivided attention. Phone calls don't need to "interrupt" your day nor do they need to endure for hours on end. I can communicate more to someone with a five minute phone call than I can with five hours of texting.

Speaking of fucking annoying that's how I view text messages. They are fine for "Hey, I'm running a few minutes late" but utterly useless for real conversation. They are slower than IM, less meaningful than e-mail and entirely too prone to the misunderstandings that a danger in all forms of non-verbal/in-person communication. Vocal inflections and body language make up a significant portion of human interaction; you are missing a great deal when you remove them both from the equation.

Re:You're doing it wrong. (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852533)

I'm pretty sure it's because the generation that first adopted texting did so because it was cheaper than phone calls. Now they're so used to it, they prefer it.

Habit is a powerful thing. I grew up with email, and I never do texting. I didn't need to, when it became popular I was connected already with constant email access everywhere I went. And since I touch type on real keyboards, I'm very uncomfortable punching telephone/smartphone keys with my thumbs.

Re:that's the truth (3, Informative)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851761)

Look at all the social network users without resistance to ostracism! Who's going to run civilization now? Zoidberg! That's who!

Re:that's the truth (2)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851777)

I guess I didn't have that experience. My wife does like to text, but likes to talk face to face, as well. We do like to ping back and forth with one another while we're both working, when something particularly interesting/insane happens at one of our jobs. But we've also always liked to sit down and talk with one another, and still do.

That doesn't seem to me to be an isolated experience, either. I go up to brunch every Sunday with a group of developers I've worked with in the past and some I still do at present, because we enjoy the face-to-face conversation, especially since some of them no longer work with us and it's the only chance we get to see them.

That being said, I think the use of technology to communicate is part of what's included in that slippery term "normal" now. If a coworker needs me to look over a block of code that's acting up, the easiest thing is to IM or email it, even if they're sitting just across the office. And often, sending back my responses will be most easily done the same way. It's just another tool available to us, and like any tool, it's not the best one for every job, but it should be used when it is. Teaching kids how to determine that should be part of any parent's priorities, and should be part of a school curriculum as well. There are times when there's no substitute for a face-to-face meetup.

Re:that's the truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38852781)

"I've dated women with backgrounds ranging from GED to Ph.D candidate and have encountered this with all of them."

That's fairly scary, my friend.

How in the world can one establish any sort of meaningful emotional bond with a person whose interaction with the outside world is based on 140 character blocks of ASCII?

Re:that's the truth (2)

CriminalNerd (882826) | more than 2 years ago | (#38853305)

I'm all for playful biting but after 160 bites, I don't think I could handle another mouthful of conversation as you put it no matter the person.

Re:that's the truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38854001)

I so agree, and whats worst, they can not have a conversation, not an argument. Heck even in the time of the conversation or asking questions they grab their phone and text and share their crap as a way to impress. I detest this. But these new metro sexual MEN are no better, watch out they might brake a nail too. All is show, no essence, and women are no women, and men are more like women. sad. I think I will go Amish....

Re:Not News (2)

tm2b (42473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851727)

The big difference is that now, the guys can find the girls on-line and they can talk, get to know each other on-line, bond over how different they feel, and start dating.

Seriously, this isn't stunting; it's empirically a shift in human social behavior.

Re:Not News (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852457)

The big difference is that now, the guys can find the girls on-line and they can talk, get to know each other on-line, bond over how different they feel, and start dating.

And it's at that point where the teenage girl discovers that her boyfriend is actually forty-five, weighs three hundred pounds and lives in his mother's basement (and his mother is the mummified corpse sitting in the armchair).

Re:Not News (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851775)

But-but-but millenials and digital-natives and blah blah blah... Listen up people, just because you can update your twitface status at 4 years old doesn't make you special. Best selling books blowing rainbows up your ass notwithstanding.

Re:Not News (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851889)

The only new thing here is that it happens to girls, as well as guys.

No it doesn't, they did a survey to see how many girls FELT they had impaired social skills. If anything it says young girls have low self esteem.

Re:Not News (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38852331)

Where do you think the whole middle-aged-guy-living-in-parents-basement meme comes from? The only new thing here is that it happens to girls, as well as guys.

See, Bill Shatner [] had it nailed years ago...

Re:Not News (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38852971)

Uh, I'm living in my parent's basement because I'm unemployed. My parents felt sorry for me so they let me stay with them. Finding a job is tough. I wish I could move out.. but I need a job to move out.

actually, I don't know where "the whole middle-aged-guy-living-in-parents-basement meme comes from." Do you know something that I don't? I'm not sure what you are implying between the social skill impairment and guy living in his parent's basement comes from. My social skills are fin even though I live with my parents I have lots of friends online. I meet my friends in person on the weekends or at night on weekdays.

plus, many of my friends still live with their parents.

Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851651)

In other news: fire was found to be hot.

H-H-H-HOT! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851667)

I *KIKE* girls with social problems!

if all the teens are doing it (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851669)

which seems to be the case, then by spending all your time on facebook and twitter you will fit right in socially.

Pissing out of my ass (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851671)

Seriously, for 3 fucking days, rivers of piss pouring out of my ass. I'm so fucking sick of it. My asshole feels like it's been wiped with a brillo pad from the constant need of mopping up the ass piss. FUCK!

Someone got to say it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851673)

Correlation does not imply causation.

Re:Someone got to say it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851709)

Doesn't mean it's correct, though.

Re:Someone got to say it (1)

maXXwell (172246) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851813)

Correlation does not imply causation.

Yup. I was going to say it if you hadn't.

Re:Someone got to say it (1)

ppanon (16583) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852223)

In a vacuum of other information, that's true. However if you can figure out a plausible mechanism by which you would have causation, then correlation turns causation into a pretty likely case.

Now the brain is a learning apparatus, and its neuroplasticity [] means that, not only do we learn things through practice, but a "use it or lose it" effect means that we also lose the abilities that we don't practice.

Now there's two effects of constant texting-based communication

  1. You reinforce the speech and thinking patterns of short soundbites, often about trivial matters
  2. Because people have only so much to talk about, by contantly updating people on what is happening to you when you are actually face-to-face there isn't much left that hasn't already been said, so you won't feel a need to do so as much.

The consequences should be pretty obvious: a lack or practice, and therefore skill, in expressing longer coherent streams of thought, and a lack of practice in processing the full sensory stream of facial expressions, body language, and tonal emphasis from face-to-face meetings. The other group that has problems with the latter due to excessive sensory sensitivity show significant problems interacting in social contexts. They are those with autism spectrum disorders.

Not a controlled study (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851681)

You would expect introverts to spend more time on gadgets, so the direction of causation here, if any, is not determined. I hate to use a cliche, but "correlation != causation" never seemed more apt.

Yeah.. (5, Funny)

raehl (609729) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851763)

My social skills are fine, asshole!

Re:Not a controlled study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38852055)

obligatory xkcd

Re:Not a controlled study (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852071)

Yes, we expect introverts to spend more time on gadgets, but perhaps that is because those who are attracted to gadgets end up introverted.

I hadn't considered it that way before, but it does seem to be an area worthy of further study.

Sometimes things that we consider obvious, or that "everybody knows", actually aren't true at all.

Re:Not a controlled study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38852103)

Not to burst your little bubble... but not even the summary suggested that there was causation. Nor did, even the summary, say there was a controlled study. It would seem they went out of their way to point out that it was a poll. You'd expect selection bias. And so would the the study's team.

So... uh.. there are plenty of times where your cliche would be more apt. Like .. in instances of claims of causation, rather than correlation.

Re:Not a controlled study (3, Insightful)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852619)

Not to mention it's apparently a self-selected, self-reported "study" aimed at girls who read a technology magazine.

you can get skills like in college for 20K+ year (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851685)

you can get skills like in college for 20K+ year yes that is what college stuff like that and not REAL work skills.

Please define "social problems" (5, Insightful)

tlambert (566799) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851699)

Please define "social problems"

Please do it in terms of something other than "the old farts say it was always done this way, so it should always be done this way".

Welcome to your children's world.

-- Terry

Re:Please define "social problems" (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851783)

This was my first thought upon reading the post.

Social norms are often an artificial construction, the expectations of them are a burden in themselves, and often quite illusory.

It's like Machismo, Honor, or a dozen other terms. Are they good, or are they just what's expected?

Re:Please define "social problems" (1)

tlambert (566799) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851817)

I wish you were tagged and still anonymous.

Normative construction is a fault

Contact me me via third channel.


Re:Please define "social problems" (2)

stms (1132653) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851961)

While this study is both shit and a water is wet study there is a pretty valid definition of "socail problems". If you don't understand how what you say (and how you say it) effects other people emotionally that would probably be considered "social problems". Its probably one of the most important skills to have. Even in the face of new technologies it doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

Re:Please define "social problems" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38852037)

Social problems...

- Problems to relate to other people. Often having a hard time to listen to other people and their ideas or problems.
- Problems to handle discussions if the ideas of the person are in question. If the person never have gotten your ideas challenged he/her will have a problem when they are.
- Problems to have a meaningful relationship. If the person have always been taken care of by your parents and never have had to adjust to other peoples needs he/her will have a hard time adjusting.
- Empathy issues.

Just to name a few... Some people get them all, and live in their parents basement for the rest of their life.

Re:Please define "social problems" (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852465)

Just to name a few... Some people get them all, and live in their parents basement for the rest of their life.

You just summed up 90% of the teenage girls I've known since the 1980s. So what's new?

Re:Please define "social problems" (1)

anubi (640541) | more than 2 years ago | (#38853833)

I have every one of these issues.

I seem best socially in areas I have no knowledge of. If someone is showing me caverns or a forest tour, I make a great team player and go wherever I am led.

But, you get me in an area I know well, and I will fight like the dickens when I think things are not right. If I am on a tour bus, and I know the bridge is out ahead, and know we don't have enough gas to get back, I will holler my concerns until they throw me off the bus.

Even though I know in the corporate world, its not about being right, its about being liked, I still insist - to the point of layoff - that things be done what I think is the right way. Maybe its early Bible training in me - about Joseph becoming second under Pharoah in Egypt because he was honest. Maybe its just hardwired in me. I can't change it no more than a musician can delete his need to make music.

Here I am in McDonalds using their internet, reading Slashdot, and downloading the specs on a WIZNET 5300 chip after discovering it at Saelig. [] . There is porn all over the net, but it holds no interest to me.

Even though I have no market for this, I want to design a big battery pack using the LLTC6802 battery monitor [] so I can have enough processing power to do charge balancing functions, make decent charts of each cell and make reasonable predictions of battery health, cell by cell, and make the results available via web server.

The little 8-bit microcontroller won't draw so much juice as to make the whole thing impractical, yet has enough processing capability as to do everything I need as for cell balancing, statistics gathering, and report generation. That little WIZNET chip looks great, I am looking forward to seeing what I can do with it. I have Wireshark, and can see exactly what it is doing on the 'net.

I feel free about talking about such things before a Slashdot audience, as I know a lot of you know exactly what I intend to do.

For me to take my interests and go before some corporate personnel resources type and try to sell it, I already feel judged as too useless for the modern executive-driven enterprise. I already sense they are not looking for someone like me, rather they want some young guy that looks great in suit and tie, and knows a lot of people. The type of people who will lay me off for being obstinate. Why would they value me as much as a $250K/yr guy who hires management types @150K/yr which fill out evaluation forms on how I take instructions - even if everything in me tells me they are barking up the wrong tree?

I do not even look for a job anymore.

I figured I could just learn to live very cheaply and do as much as I can without involving anyone else. Its been my experience once anyone sees me doing anything, they will run to their lawyers to have cease-and-desist letters sent, and I am not strong enough to defend myself.

I do not feel I can work for a big corporation, as I cannot deal with the office politics, nor can I start my own small business, as our Government coins law at the request of the bigger fish that keeps us small fry from spawning and competing in the market.

Legal torts kill just as surely as a bullet. I can die from either blood or economic hemorrhage. Tort guns are legal, but the bullets are way too expensive for me.

I have better sense than to make moonshine, grow pot, or start a business that might upset somebody else who knows how to play off of Congress. All of these activities attract lawsuits.

I have posted enough hopefully to indicate we are not all of the same mold. I feel quite cheated, as I spent so much time in schools, actually DOING the work single-handedly, successfully competing against fraternities who had databases of old tests. When I get in the workplace, I can't hold a job because I try my damndest to be honest and hold my ground. Those with "people skills" become my superiors who evaluate me and lay me off.

What am I supposed to do? Would I design E-Cat [] technology into a building plan before I was convinced it was viable? Or would I lead my employer down the primrose path with my energies focused on who else I could delegate the blame for a failed system on? I have always worked at the "cutting edge" of technology, but I found it impossible to simultaneously be inflexible for science, yet cushy for management types.

Re:Please define "social problems" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38852347)

This is precisely the issue here that the article fails to address. I grew up in the 1980s on BBSs, on IRC in the 1990s and 2000s have been SMS, facebook, twitter, IRC and a mix of whatever else is online and in various electronic communication methods

Socially, for the work I do and the people I socialise with, my wide range of a hundred or more friends, close friends, and important acquaintances, socialising through the 'net is THE important way to socialise. It's what's gained me jobs, found me my partner, given me important long-term contacts that are independent of spacial position.

Other people in my small town who didn't have network-based socialising skills? They're on meth, alcoholic, obese and on welfare. I'm nearly fifty and enjoying life

Who has the social problems again?

Facebook (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852717)

Totally THIS!

We have this debate at family dinners quite often. We "don't keep in touch with our friends" is what the parents come up with. The fact is they don't understand modern social media. I don't need to take some random out to dinner once a year to catchup because I am always caught up. I don't need to send letters or mass emails to friends like my parents do updating them about their lives.

They don't seem to realise that we are communicating in a different way. Facebook. Who need to catchup with people when they post their entire lives on their news feed? That random not very close friend from highschool, I can tell you where he works who he's dating, and his current big problems in life, they were all posted right there on his wall. Late night schmoozing on the phone from the bedroom? Screw that, lets sms, or if you need to talk to someone in realtime fire up skype or facebook messenger.

The study doesn't realise that we are now more social in very different ways. It may not conform to their world view, but screw it our view will be the new world view in 20 years.

Re:Please define "social problems" (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38854015)

Please define "social problems"

Please do it in terms of something other than "the old farts say it was always done this way, so it should always be done this way".

Welcome to your children's world.


Okay, I'll say right up front that this is purely anecdotal, so take it with plenty of salt, but I've noticed what appears to me to be a disturbing trend among teenage girls, and I wonder if gadgets aren't at least a contributing factor.

Now, teenagers are selfish. That's nothing new. Learning that there are people outside of yourself, and that those people matter, is something that has always arrived in the late teens, or early 20s (and for some people it doesn't seem to really sink in until decades later than that). But I've seen multiple instances lately, with my daughter, a neighbor's daughter, my sister's daughter, and a some of my daughter's friends of a sort of extreme need for instant gratification, and extreme negative responses to lack of fulfillment.

The details don't matter, but in all of these cases, the girls were asked to do pretty reasonable things. Do the occasional chore around the house, keep their parents apprised of their location, etc. And their responses were total and utter defiance, including telling their parents that they don't have to follow any rules, that they can do whatever they want, etc. In four cases, the defiance escalated to violent aggression against their parents. In all of the cases, the girls ran away and several ended up in trouble with the law.

Now, I knew plenty of "bad" girls (from a distance, I was a pretty shy, geeky kid), who often fought with their parents and were pretty defiant. But what I've seen lately seems like it's on a completely different scale. My sister had a pretty checkered teenage history herself, dropping out of school, etc., and she hung out with a lot of problem kids both while still at home and when at Job Corps... but she agrees that she also didn't see anything like the sort of extreme anti-social behavior that seems to cropping up all over.

I'm hesitant to attribute too much to this, because every generation of parents believes their kids' generation is the worst ever... but this does seem to be different. I wonder if it's not related to the ingrained expectation of instant gratification provided by gadgets.

I don't know... all anecdotes and speculation. But it wouldn't surprise me at *all* to hear a few years from now of studies showing significant increases in certain types of anti-social behavior -- and I mean really negative stuff, not just not knowing how to talk to people -- associated with gadget usage.

"least likely to develop normal social tendencies" (5, Funny)

egburr (141740) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851701)

least likely to develop normal social tendencies

Well, from what I remember of "normal social tendencies" in high school, maybe it's better that fewer people develop them.

Re:"least likely to develop normal social tendenci (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851847)

I kinda think this was meant as a joke but just in case...
Judging from your UID, I take it you're not wet behind the ears. If I'm right and if you are seriously still dwelling on what did and did not happen to you in high school? You really need to either get some help or just shut up and learn they you're the misfit, not everyone else. Even the most abused kids I knew in high school have learned to move on and become productive level headed citizens at this point.

Re:"least likely to develop normal social tendenci (1)

Gibgezr (2025238) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852529)

Um, I don't know what you are reading into his message, but I didn't see anywhere that he was still dwelling on high school. Remembering != dwelling, and remembering that many other people's idea of normal social tendencies in HS was adolescent cliques and follow-the-leader posturing does not comment on *his* social tendencies, then or now.

Paradigm shift (5, Insightful)

tm2b (42473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851705)

Or, they could consider the idea that as on-line communication becomes rooted in our social ecosphere, social skills are changing to more closely integrate on-line interactions.

15 years ago, online dating was satire. 5-10 years ago it was socially frowned upon. These days, it's damned near normative.

What is normal? (1)

Budenny (888916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851711)

Problem is, what is normal? Suppose for instance we thought that Amish social culture and relations between teenagers was normal. Then we might say that the excessive use of cars and shopping malls and fast food led to the development of abnormal attitudes to social relations among teenagers. Suppose we thought arranged marriages the norm. We might say then that excessive levels of consumption of mass market women's magazines led to abnormal attitudes to marriage, including resistance to proper levels of parental influence over future marriage partners. We really need to get away from this crazed desire to have everyone be something identical called normal. These girls and guys will, almost all of them, just find their way through life in the end, get married, have kids, have jobs. And the ones that will not, well, its doubtful their lives would be any happier deprived of tech. They'd either find something else, or they'd be miserable.

Study finds surveys bad science.. (5, Informative)

tbird81 (946205) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851737)


n: 3461 - pretty good
Inclusion criteria: Girls 8-12 who replied to a magazine survey - pretty bad
Measurement: Self-reporting of multitasking, self-reporting on social ability - reliable?
Interpretation: Can also be applied to boys - where the fuck did this come from??
Author: Clifford Nass a "self-described technologist of 25 years".

The author seems to be one of those self-promoting weirdos who picks a topic he knows will be controversial, does some easy "science" with it, and comes up with a controversial conclusion. He says he finds the results "disturbing".

Well Clifford, I find the fact that Stanford employs someone like you quite disturbing. I find you job title "technologist" disturbing. And I find your name dropping of Google and Microsoft disturbing. Most of all, I find the complete lack of scientific method in this study incredibly sad - it's just made for pop-science articles. Shame on you.

Re:Study finds surveys bad science.. (4, Insightful)

Rinnon (1474161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851787)

Don't forget the fact that the magazine in question is "Discovery Girls." Now, I don't want to submit myself completely to stereotypes, but what kind of person reads Discovery Girls? I'm guessing NERDY GIRLS. Just a shot in the dark. And nerds aren't exactly known for their stellar social skills. Not that any of this is a bad thing, I'd take a nerdy socially awkward girl any day of the week (not from the age range the survey took from mind you).

Re:Study finds surveys bad science.. (1)

retroworks (652802) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851899)

I had read the article and posted it on Facebook as a caution. Now I've read your insightful commentary, removed the post, and decided to let the kids play on the lawn again...

Re:Study finds surveys bad science.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38852737)

Could not have said it better myself. These kind of studies drive me crazy, always sounding some sort of alarm. "This is disturbing" is usually a key phrase that makes me double check how the study was done and by who. Its one thing to run a study and present the findings, its another thing to make baseless assumptions off of those, such as what you mentioned, "can also be applied to boys".

I beg to ask why this made it to slashdot, but instead I digress.

Citation (1)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 2 years ago | (#38853763)

After some searching, the article appears to be this one [] , "Media use, face-to-face communication, media multitasking, and social well-being among 8- to 12-year-old girls." Abstract:

An online survey of 3,461 North American girls ages 8-12 conducted in the summer of 2010 through Discovery Girls magazine examined the relationships between social well-being and young girls' media use-including video, video games, music listening, reading/homework, e-mailing/posting on social media sites, texting/instant messaging, and talking on phones/video chatting-and face-to-face communication. This study introduced both a more granular measure of media multitasking and a new comparative measure of media use versus time spent in face-to-face communication. Regression analyses indicated that negative social well-being was positively associated with levels of uses of media that are centrally about interpersonal interaction (e.g., phone, online communication) as well as uses of media that are not (e.g., video, music, and reading). Video use was particularly strongly associated with negative social well-being indicators. Media multitasking was also associated with negative social indicators. Conversely, face-to-face communication was strongly associated with positive social well-being. Cell phone ownership and having a television or computer in one's room had little direct association with children's socioemotional well-being. We hypothesize possible causes for these relationships, call for research designs to address causality, and outline possible implications of such findings for the social well-being of younger adolescents. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).

I don't have access to the study itself. I hope that any peer-reviewed study would address the concerns you voiced (and many more). Obviously the CNN article is crap; in the absence of more information, I'll at least give the article the benefit of the doubt and suspend judgement.

interesting article. (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851765)

I think that it's a pretty good article. I think 8 to 12 year range is kind of too narrow and it wasn't a longitudinal study, so we don't get the clear big picture here. It's been mentioned here that social skills are changing overall. Yet, we're still bound by human intuition in terms of how to interact socially(Whether or not they're intrinsic to humanity or not; that's another point. They're certainly nearly universal). These kids are still going to need to get jobs, meet people who aren't geeks etc.

There's an awesome quote that made the apple fanboy part of me die laughing.

FaceTime and Skype are not replacements for actual face time

at least they're not as socially awkward (2)

matty619 (630957) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851781)

As all those tween girls frantically posting to Slasdot all day.

Re:at least they're not as socially awkward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851967)

Maybe they selected for the girls with Aspie tendencies by selecting for those with good computer skills

To New (1)

Grindalf (1089511) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851789)

The tech is too new, this data will take quite a while before it can be gathered. Does it not strike you as a little strange and out of the ordinary to attempt to gather this information for this research project? Does it strike you as even slightly likely that this finding is true in well adjusted, healthy people?

Ruin my day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851791)

This is not what I go to slashdot to read. Nerd success stories only, please.

Welcome to the 21st century (4, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851841)

Multitasking between various digital devices, communicating online, and watching video ARE normal social skills nowadays.

Re:Welcome to the 21st century (1)

Gibgezr (2025238) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852583)

^^ this
For proof, I submit my oldest daughter, who I have seen on multiple occasions engaged in discussions with friends simultaneously on: twitter/facebook/SMS/Skype/ and not one but *two* phones, both held in front of her so the people on each phone could hear each other, her, and the Skype session on her netbook...

She seems very popular, gets along with just about everyone no matter what the age, does very well in school. She is also dating a very handsome young man atm, who is capable of carrying on communications with her on at least 3 channels at a time =.=

Re:Welcome to the 21st century (2)

Tom (822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38853393)

No, they aren't skills, they are disabilities.

Lots and lots of people claim that they are good at multi-tasking. Study after study proves them all wrong - humans are horrible at multi-tasking. What we are excellent in is fooling ourselves with regards to our abilities.

Re:Welcome to the 21st century (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38853679)

Moreover, there are loads of people who are genuinely introverted and/or afraid to go out in public or talk to people in person at all. I imagine quite a few of them would be much more comfortable communicating and interacting with people when there's a digital wall between them.

Nice science (1)

Superdarion (1286310) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851845)

You know, I'm sick and tired of all these articles about "studies" proving this and proving that, where that "study" refers to a fucking poll! That is NOT science, that is not a study, that is not a good way to draw conclusions. Period.

Tweens, meh. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851855)

Sysadmin here.

I rapidly switch between Skype, E-mail and the Phone.

I hate my life, I hate your life, I hate the world, and I'm voting Republican in 2012 in hopes that the Earth will be destroyed.

Social problems much?

Re:Tweens, meh. (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38853021)

"I hate my life, I hate your life, I hate the world, and I'm voting Republican in 2012 in hopes that the Earth will be destroyed."

Lots of us felt like that before there was an internet.

Reading Discovery Girls causes social problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851857)


Isn't it the other way round? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851865)

I had social problems LONG before I was ever addicted to tech. Mind you, I think they came from my other nerdy tendencies :)

Don't write this off (3, Insightful)

Prune (557140) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851887)

I'm saying the following as a software developer (among other things), which may or may not be ironic: I've always had the concern for the potential (often actualized) of information technology to be socially detrimental. From evolutionary psychology we know that despite the appearances of a very flexible psyche, significant components of most of our behaviors and thinking are hardwired by biology. Nurture only has so much leeway within the boundaries set by nature. Millions of years of evolution have created a social animal that is well fit to a specific environment of foraging tribalism. Civilization has already in a mere 10k years taken us quite far from that, and we've built a sort of human zoo for ourselves. For all the benefits this has brought, many detriments have come about as well, a lot of them having to do with people's actions today often influencing people with whom they have no personal relationships (contrast a tribe where everyone knows everyone else in the tribe and members rarely had influence outside the tribe), much more indirect links between appropriate behavior and reward (creating stress), and so on. Information technology is taking us further yet from our biologically optimal environment, and I have no confidence it will turn out well. Our social interactions have become a perverted version of what we've evolved for, and patterns of interaction through technology abuse the neurological mechanisms responsible for controlling communication and other social aspects of the mind, in the same way that spaghetti programming abuses the goto statement.

[This part of the post is a bit tangential and may be skipped.] Some people would say that everything will be fine because eventually technology and biotechnology will be used to directly enhance our minds and bodies, so that we can exceed our biological constraints. These people ignore the problem of our moral/ethical frameworks, which are grounded in the brain's evolutionary heritage, being incapable of guiding us in such a future as there is no precedent in the evolution of moral/ethical behavior. Simple example: 60 years in the future a person begins being slowly "enhanced" by replacing one by one his neurons, and then other cells, with artificial or bioengineered ones that initially duplicate function and then bring online enhanced functionality; eventually the whole person's consistence has been replaced; now contrast this to, instead, making a recording of all relevant information about the person, building an artificial copy, and killing the original; same result, yet the second version feels wrong to most people. Our morals/ethics are not equipped for situations that have no analogy whatsoever to anything in our evolutionary past. If we extend ourselves, we would have to extend our morals and ethics too, and the latter extension is basically arbitrary.

Correlation is not causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851901)

Don't they teach people that correlation is not causation these days?

I'm not particularly highly skilled in the social arts, but I didn't have all these technological gadgets when I was a kid. I'm just maladjusted, like the bookworms of yore (back in the days when books were printed on paper).

Is this what passes for medical research nowadays? (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851921)

Is this really the best that medical research can come up with?

There's a ton of potential correlations that people have noticed which would be medically relevant if only someone would take the time to check them out.

How about looking into the supplements people take to see if they have any effect? Not just the "trace doses on a population of subjects with a known genetic cause seems to have no effect" kind of study, but a real studies which could validate or dismiss the various claims that people make about supplements.

Does taking extra vitamin D correlate [inversely] with SAD? Or depression in general? How about correlating people who take iodine supplements with depression? Do magnesium supplements help? Does vitamin D help prevent cancer?

How about looking into diseases and conditions for which there is no known cause? Post prandial syndrome? Keratolysis exfoliativa? How about eliminating one or more proposed "possible causes", thus encouraging people to look elsewhere and to not spend money on treatments which can have no effect?

The research in the article has little obvious significance, throws very little light on what appears to be a non-problem, and since there is no sense of importance it doesn't inform policy. (Is this a problem? Should we be concerned? Does this cry out for regulation?)

By way of contrast, Erin Brockovich is looking into [] an apparent disease (or condition) affecting teenagers in western NY. It's salient, important, and useful both from a medical and political perspective. Even if she finds nothing, her research will eliminate one or more proposed causes.

Shouldn't we be doing that type of research? You know - the type that actually tries to help people?

And the definition of "normal" is what? (2)

rhysweatherley (193588) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851935)

I'm guessing the researcher's definition of "normal social tendencies" is:

Grows up a little princess, sheltered from the big bad world, only goes on dates at chaperoned events in clear sight of her father, until some presentable young man with good prospects asks her father for permission to put a ring on her finger.

And this from the article is just WTF:

A few years ago, Nass worked on a study about how multitasking affects adults. He found that heavy multitaskers experience cognitive issues, such as difficulty focusing and remembering things. They were actually worse at juggling various activities, a skill crucial to many people's work lives, than those who spent less time multitasking, Nass said.

So someone who is good at multitasking is worse at juggling various activities? What does multitasking even mean if not juggling?

I have experienced older relatives getting upset when I'm just reading to myself, sending e-mails, or surfing the net, instead of talking to them. Social does not mean I HAVE to socialize with YOU.

Not just anti-social, a bad reader too (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#38853761)

What you fail to grasp is that just because someone multi-tasks, this doesn't mean they are any good at it OR that it is the right approach to take.

You seem to think that you are multi-tasking BUT are you doing any of the things you do as good as you could be doing them if you didn't have the attention span of a kitten? Don't even bother saying that when you try, it makes no difference, all that shows is that people who multi-task without being very good at it are just bad at single tasks as well.

I couldn't find that first supposed quote in the article. Adding your own quotes as fact to a piece of research? Gosh, let me add a bit of my own, when someone reacts so violently it is usually the case of the truth getting a bit to close.

It is well known that normal humans loose the capacity to fully focus on a individual task when more tasks are being added. You cannot just keep giving new tasks to a person and expect them to do them all equally well at the same time. Yet this is exactly what multi-taskers pride themselves on, they go against decades of research to make sure highly trained and focussed fighter pilots are not overloaded with tasks and claim they can do an endless variety of tasks without any loss in quality... makes sense, if you live in lala-land.

And being social DOES mean having to be social even if you don't always want to. Being a social person doesn't just mean only when you want to with who you want to but to be able to have as a normal human being even in less then ideal situations. Fleeing from a family gathering to check your email is the hallmark of a badly adjusted and anti-social person.

Trust me, you are talking on a nerd site, we know about these things.

Last sentence (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38851955)

Boys' emotional development is more difficult to analyze because male social development varies widely and over a longer time period, he said."

tl;dr: It's difficult to tell because adolescent boys are already mostly crazy.

So what? Dope em up (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#38851975)

LIttle Judy cant focus cause she is bombarded with blinky shit fighting for attention on every square inch of her life? dope-em! thats why its there, no need to be a parent and turn the shit off once in a damn while, let you 6 year old have 24/7 access to a smartphone, video games, tv and the internet ... how ever else will she learn how to use these things? I mean geez parents it took you like forever to push a button and click a mouse right?

Boring (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38852011)

The problem, in general, is that we are required to multitask, and have been ever since the "office environment" and "school environment" existed. Only every year businesses and schools are required to squeeze more performance out of increasingly stressful environments.

In my opinion, and I say this bluntly as possible. We are nearing the end for personalized communications. 20 years from now, it will be whatever Twitter and Facebook morph into, with the odd picture or video thrown in. Nobody wants to talk with their voice anymore because people don't want the stress of being yelled or screamed at. On the plus side, children will learn to deal with trolls earlier on, and not want to lock themselves away in the basement for the rest of their lives the first time someone violates their privacy.

I've been working with people online for the last 10 years without a single phone call. This works fine. Everything is said, in text, without any sarcasm or taken out of context since I can refer back to previous conversations.

I've worked in call centers. People love to scream to get what they want. They've brought this upon themselves. It's the reaction to being confronted with stress, is to take the least stressful means of conversation.

The last place I worked for (with a regular paycheck) everyone preferred the computer. Few people came over to talk unless it had to be off-the-record.

And that's where we are today. Digital paper trails, and off-the-record voice conversations. If you're serious, you send an email, if you're not , you speak aloud.

Does that mean they are all becoming nerds? (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852093)

That is either radically cool or a forewarning of doom for our society, probably both.

What "social problems"? What is "normal"? (2)

FoolishOwl (1698506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852265)

I'm not just asking rhetorically: the article is lacking any meaninful information, and begs many questions. It says that online interactions do not substitute for "real" interactions, but why aren't online interactions "real", and if they are distinctly different in character from offline interactions, what makes them worse, rather than better, or rather than simply different?

What social problems are we talking about? Are we talking about differences that young women would themselves consider problems? Or is it simply a preference for online interaction?

It's entirely likely that the actual study cites real problems. But like everyone else here, I've had a lot of experiences with people denouncing my interests as "not real" and inferior to "real" activities, and I'm conscious that there's a lot of social pressure on people in general and women in particular to conform to toxic social norms. So I can't help but suspect that the study is complaining that some women are nerds. And we like nerds here.

Scientific study or a survey? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38852321)

Is it a survey or a scientific study? They are mutually exclusive you know.

Coincidence (3, Funny)

goldaryn (834427) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852369)

Siri and I were just talking about this

Dreamy (1)

jimmetry (1801872) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852383)

Every scientist dreams of publishing in the journal "Wall Street", known for their strict and reputable peer review process. But more importantly, isn't ocean acidification, NOT the warming itself, the most immediate threat to the ecosystem? And this idea that the models don't fit beyond the bounds of the plots shown to the public has been argued and debunked over and over again.

Re:Dreamy (1)

jimmetry (1801872) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852419)

Huh.... How the hell did I end up in this article? Sorry :\

New technology, same old symptoms? (2)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852473)

I would like to see a study that compares various technologies and the social behaviour of children. The reason is simple enough: there have always been children with poorly developed social skills. The difference is the technology that they bury themselves in.

Today, it seems to be telecommunications technology and social networking. That's what this study is about. In the 80's and 90's, kids buried themselves in computers and video games. In the 60's and 70's, there was the TV epidemic. Throughout the whole time, less social children have been engrossed in the most insidious technology of all: books.

So my question is this: is this 'desocialization' of children remaining at the same levels historically, or is it actually getting worse? Somehow, I suspect there has been little if any change because I suspect that children who are less social migrate to these technologies as an outlet. And if that is the case, can the new technologies improve socialization skills. After all, we are talking about communications technology these days. You use SMS or Facebook to converse with people. If you alienate people using those media, you are cut off. That should incentivize better social behaviour.

But all of this is speculation, since I have questions but not the tools to investigate it.

Oh please, this reeks of "pulled out of ass" (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852535)

Why? I grew up with gadgets, the primitive ones. I'm no more socially awkward because of it. And yes, I have 12 tabs open right now. So what?

Wow, maybe the most completely BS assumption ever? (1)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | more than 2 years ago | (#38852655)

"The study only included girls who responded to a survey in Discovery Girls magazine, but results should apply to boys, too, Clifford Nass, a Stanford professor of communications who worked on the study, said in a phone interview. Boys' emotional development is more difficult to analyze because male social development varies widely and over a longer time period, he said."

I'm pretty sure that there is absolutely no correlation between the emotional development of young girls and young boys. Having been a young boy and being the father of a ridiculous number of young boys and girls, I can say with considerable authority that what one gender does and how they respond has nothing to do with the other gender.

Girls with ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#38853085)

... impaired social skills? Great! Now we've got someone who will date Slashdotters.

Re:Girls with ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38853941)

Dating, getting married and living an unhappy life, that's so desirable!

What is a social tendency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38853333)

What are normal social tendencies, and how would one develop one? Does it involve a new programming language?

conclusive (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38853423)

Tween girls who spend much of their waking hours switching frantically between YouTube, Facebook, television and text messaging are more likely to develop social problems, says a Stanford University study published in a scientific journal on Wednesday.

I asked my young niece, my sister's daughter, what she thought of this study. She said she disagreed with its findings.

I asked her why and after removing her left earphone she said, "Fuck you, that's why."

I would have been more disturbed about her reaction if I didn't understand that she had gotten that answer from hearing the way her mom and I have spoken to each other since we were kids.

Calm yourselves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38853453)

In this case, "poor social skills" means that the girls don't put out.

They receive all of their validation through responses to Facebook posts -- posts of themselves from strategic angles, angles that hide the enormity of their blubber.

The responses are from manchildren hoping that compliments will get them laid. Spoilers: it isn't a good strategy.

Evolution can be our friend. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38853733)

Plenty to question about how this conclusion was drawn.

I will sidestep all of that. I say, hurray, the technologically advanced we get, the fewer people who are going to have children. We need fewer social skills so the population will drop. TOO many people already. Fewer people, fewer problems. Fewer social contacts, fewer dates, fewer physical contacts, fewer resulting new people.

Heck we need to provide free phones with unlimited texting, twitter and facebook accounts to every female in the developing world at no cost to them whatsoever. Why just the women?

Well, we do need to keep the techo-nerd genes around. This way it will still exert a bit of selective pressure to get a larger than average number of techno males in touch with all the texting tweener females. Make the males recognize they need texting phones and compete to get them (and the women that come along with them perhaps).

Multi-tasking = Essential = BAD (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#38854009)

Somehow the idea that multi-tasking not only is necessary but a GOOD thing has become entwined in our society, especially under the influence of women who claim they are better at it then men and that men with their single task focus are obsolete...

Yet, the military STILL likes to put TWO people in charge of complex fighting machine. If not more? Why? Especially in fighter planes there is no technical need for it anymore. So why still two people or more to divide the tasks? Can highly intelligent, well trained and physically fit fighter pilots not focus on more then one task at a time? No, not as good as two or more people can. It isn't just direct control of the vehicle, it is dealing with all the information that is needed. Awacs aircraft don't just pipe their data straight to fighter pilots to sort out, it is processed so that task is taken away from the pilot. Radio communication is limitted to what a pilot needs to hear, not all the chatter around to avoid him being overloaded.

OVERLOAD, that is part but not all off the problem. Our brain is not an infinite machine, proof? Magicians. Our eyes take in the photons of the whole act, yet by waving a hand here, we move a hand there. Often quite close to each other. Even our amazing eyes and massive brain can be so easily overloaded that we miss what must obviously be happen (we know there is not such thing as real magic) and be fooled by the lie we know is happening right in front of us. Try it, most people even if they KNOW the trick is taking place have trouble actually spotting it. This is why red circles have been invented as overlays to draw our attention within a image to a specifc spot.

It would therefor make sense that setting a security guard to work watching a dozen monitors with each dozens of people is going to make it pretty damn hard to focus on all of them. And gosh, that is fact and why a lot of money is being put on AI systems that can do the looking instead.

But there is also another element to multi-tasking: avoiding spending your full attention to a single task. The bad students amongst us or those of us who know bad students are probably familiar with the ritual of finding the right music, the right snack, the right drink etc etc to make study easier... not it isn't, but because you hate the task of studying you add tasks to limit focussing on your study and voila, you only succeeded in making it harder for yourself and therefor will hate it even more. Meanwhile the good student just gets on with it in far less time by just focussing on the one task.

If you can only concentrate on one task at the time, then that is a mental handicap that is quite serious. But somehow the current fashion is to think of those who cannot concentrate on a single task at a time as natural multi-taskers. They might well be, but is that a good thing? It seems to taken for granted that because a person multi-tasks, they are automatically good at it and that none of their tasks suffer because of it.

There is a further problem, how you perform a task, matters. Sending an email to someone or a text is NOT the same as a face to face chat. And if you rather handle a dozen online conversations at the same time while avoiding your family downstairs... are you not just fleeing to your room to avoid a social situation you are unable to deal with? This is a nerd site, how many here posted on a friday night when they could have gone out and told themselves they choose to stay home alone? When you are a social misfit, at least have the courage to admit it.

I am not saying it is wrong but what would society look like if all PEOPLE were nerds? If I look fondly back on SWG memories rather then dates, that is just half a million people world wide. But if facebook users did the same, it might well affect the birth rate.

What I have noticed, as a MMO player is that more and more I am playing with young people who lack any awareness that if you group, you are grouping with other living human beings who have their own desires and goals and those are unlikely to be the willing slave of you. People unwilling to wait even a few minutes for everyone to gather, instantly leaving a group without even checking if the quest is actually fully finished. The social skills required for grouping in a MMO are hardly complex, this is not advanced diplomacy. And yet, a lot of players, especially young ones, completely lack them.

I don't think it is just a matter of youth, you only notice someones age in a MMO in a negative way, the young players who are good are labelled as being mature and their age is assumed to be 20+. It almost seems as if the recluse, the nerd of yesterday who at least knew what he was and was sociable to other nerds has become even more isolated but more mainstream at the same time.

One of the hardest things in a MMO is to accept that it is a social affair, how many people would leave a soccer field during a match to answer their phone? Now how many do that during a computer game? It is as if the remoteness of the internet allows people to avoid the many obligations and considerations that come with face to face interaction and forget that this is the norm.

We are human beings through our interaction with other human beings. It is not that new technology is creating shut-ins but it is enabling more people to do it more easily while still keeping up a front of being social. If you have the fast majority of your social contacts purely online when you precisely control when and how it happens, how are you any different from some person who never leaves their house and never talks with anyone if he/she can avoid it?

Social skills are not something you just have or not have, they have to developed, trained, exercised and used. Like many here I wasn't very good at them when I was young but I learned, it took a long time but the difference is huge. I now can talk to people, bargain with them, deal with them. They became essential as my job shifted from a solitary position to one of mentoring and now mostly leadership. And I can see young kids coming into the workforce who are even worse then I was at that age. Oh they know how to use communication tools but can't communicate.

I think that some kids are avoiding learning social skills while their parents patting themselves on their back at how good little jimmy or susie is with the iPad. I didn't always like it when my mom dragged me away from my computer but it meant that I at least picked up the most basic skills.

And if all this is enraging you and make you wish you had mod points to flag this as troll because you disagree with me and don't want to deal with it... I feel sorry for you. Go out, talk to real people and deal with humanity, before it is to late.

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