In case any of you also missed this, a study points to the fact that frequent emailing and IMing causes an IQ to lower by ten points, more than smoking weed, which only dumbs you down four IQ points.
Glenn Wilson, who headed up this 1,100 person investigation, says that “Infomania” (I’m going to have to start using that in daily conversation) is the scourge of the workplace. Email and IM are taking pickaxes to our brain, and we need to stop them before the computers rise up against us- NO FATE BUT WHAT WE MAKE before the dumb-stick does any permanent damage to our society. (It hasn’t yet, I swear.)
I’ll come out and openly admit that I feel dumber because of “infomania”- hell, I call my fiancee on Monday to ask her what we did during the past weekend. I’m a wikipedia/blog/news junkie, and my mind inhales information like so many white lines. It’s getting crowded up there, and the only solution I can see is grabbing a shotgun and a rocking chair, and moving to a house by a lake in upstate New York.
The article is available down past this jump…
Does more IM = a lower IQ?
E-mail, instant messaging may hurt smarts more than marijuana does
By JAMES H. BURNETT III and VIKKI ORTIZ
To: You, about to check your e-mail
Subject: U could B dumber 4 it
According to a recent university study conducted at King’s College London, constant e-mailing and text-messaging reduces your intelligence by 10 IQ points – an effect more damaging than smoking marijuana.
“This is a very real and widespread phenomenon,” Glenn Wilson, author of the research, said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “Info-mania, if unchecked, will damage a worker’s performance by reducing their mental sharpness. Companies should encourage a more balanced and appropriate way of working.”
Mike Salman, chief executive officer of All Star Wireless Communications at the downtown Milwaukee’s The Shops of Grand Avenue, said Friday that he couldn’t address the issue of falling smarts. But he did say that most of his young clientele come to his shop seeking cell phones not used for talking but for texting.
“It’s the first question they ask,” Salman said, “whether or not a certain phone is good for text messaging or e-mail. And honestly, I’d say more than half of the people who come to me don’t even ask about phones for talking on them.”
Angelia Lopez, visiting Milwaukee from Mexico where she teaches chemistry, sat on a bench Friday afternoon in Grand Avenue sending text messages to family back home.
“I use (my phone) for text messages less than an hour a day,” Lopez, 36, said. “But my computer, I use maybe three or four hours a day, much of it for instant-messaging to stay in touch with family and for work purposes.”
Lopez said she feels no ill effects of her frequent messaging, aside from the tedious nature of typing notes on tiny cell phone buttons.
“That takes a while, because I’m not as fast as some of my students,” she said.
Hooked on electronic chatter
Commissioned by Hewlett-Packard Co., the study also indicated near-addictive behavior as more people seem to be unable to leave work at work.
Sixty-two percent of the workers surveyed are addicted to checking messages outside of regular work hours and while they’re on vacation. One-third of all adults responded to an e-mail immediately or within 10 minutes. And one in five said they are “happy” to interrupt a business or social meeting to respond to an e-mail or text-message, according to the study.
Such technological addiction is no surprise to Stephen Franzoi, a psychology professor at Marquette University.
“When a person is engaging in multiple tasks, like text-messaging, while also talking to someone in the room, they have limited cognitive capacity,” Franzoi said. “Their ability to actually process what someone else is saying decreases. . . .
“But to say they’re less intelligent as a result, I think, is just wrong. The truth is any activity you do for hours on end, you’re going to get worn out.”
The addictive nature of e-mailing and texting might best be compared with the addiction casino gamblers have to slot machines, Franzoi said.
“One way to think about this is you can’t really predict when e-mail messages are going to come in,” he said. “It’s random. In psychology, we would call that variable ratio reinforcement. At casinos, the variable is that, after a certain number of pulls at that slot machine you’re going to get a winning jackpot or winning number. It could come at any time, but it is programmed to happen that way. In a sense, e-mails mimic that.”
People addicted to e-mail and text- and instant-messaging who find themselves bogged down are exercising the same sort of vigilance maintained by slot machine gamblers, Franzoi said.
“It means people tend to hang around waiting for messages to come through. They’re afraid if they go away they’re gonna miss something,” he said.
‘It’s hard to get things done’
Michelle Holtz, a 20-year-old sophomore journalism/mass communications major at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said she uses her personal computer for about an hour a day to check and send e-mail.
Her biggest problem isn’t an addiction to those messages, Holtz said; it’s working around the steady flow of instant messages she receives during the three hours or so each night she’s on her computer for homework.
“People are constantly messaging me. And I admit I do respond. Sometimes it’s hard to get things done,” Holtz said sheepishly.
As for the brain slump revealed in the British study, Holtz doesn’t think she’s been affected yet.
“I think I’m OK. It may take me longer to do my homework, but I’m not feeling stupid or anything,” she said. “I’m still getting A’s. I still have a 3.89 GPA, and I’ve been using the Internet since fourth grade.”
Eric White, 33, said Friday that he surfs the Web and sends e-mails and instant messages roughly an hour a day.
And while he doesn’t think his intelligence is slipping, he said he could see how e-mail and messaging shortcuts could make people sloppy.
“I guess I’m conflicted. The convenience is nice,” said White, who hasn’t sent a traditional letter by mail in more than five years. “But I certainly tend to write my messages in shorter phrases, and shortcuts I wouldn’t use otherwise. It goes to the whole issue of shrinking vocabularies.”
Douglas Gentile, director of research at the National Institute on Media and the Family, warned that people should not be too alarmed about the loss of IQ points cited in the London study. Gentile said IQ tests can be affected by a person’s lack of ability to focus.
But that doesn’t mean they’re less intelligent.
“If you spend a lot of time constantly being interrupted at work, your brain will get used to doing that,” Gentile said. “You can see the effect on an IQ test, but does that mean your brain is getting dumber or about to fall out just because you’re multitasking? No.”
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.