Impact of Social Media and Internet Communications on Intelligence, Learning and Emotional Fitness

Compiled by Kaveh Farrokh (Ph.D.), Counsellor & Learning Specialist at Langara College Counselling Department.


As reported in 2013 by Dr. Gerald Crabtree (a geneticist at Stanford University) in the Our Fragile Intellect Project published in Trends in Genetics, January, Vol. 29 (No.1), pp. 1-4 [consult pdf file here … or see summary in … RT News report]:

“Analysis of human mutation rates and the number of genes required for human intellectual and emotional fitness indicates that we are almost certainly losing these abilities…I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues. Furthermore, I would guess that he or she would be among the most emotionally stable of our friends and colleagues…”

The question then is what is causing this decline in our intellectual and emotional management capabilities? While there are most likely multiple factors, a number of studies suggest that excessive use of social media (i.e. Facebook), internet-based communications (i.e. e-mail) and texting can reduce persons’ IQ scores. Dr. Glenn Wilson, from King’s College London University for example, discovered as far back as 2005 that excessive e-mailing and texting reduces IQ. Among his findings was that workplace employees who obsessively check their phone calls, emails and text messages throughout the day can suffer an IQ drop of up to 10 points. As noted in a CNN news report “E-mails ‘hurt IQ more than pot’ (April 22, 2005):

Workers distracted by phone calls, e-mails and text messages suffer a greater loss of IQ than a person smoking marijuana, a British study shows.

As noted in the Guardian news report “Emails ‘pose threat to IQ’ “ (April, 22, 2005) with respect to Wilson’s study:

“Doziness, lethargy and an increasing inability to focus reached “startling” levels in the trials by 1,100 people, who also demonstrated that emails in particular have an addictive, drug-like grip….it is a recipe for muddled thinking and poor performance”

Returning to Dr. Crabtree, he avers that humans were at their most intelligent when:

“…every individual was exposed to nature’s raw selective mechanisms on a daily basis”

Simply put, our intelligence and emotional stability strongly benefit from our interaction with the (non-virtual) environment, a process which our ancient hominid ancestors benefited as they increased their intelligence and brain size.

Comments are closed.