Facebook, cancer, Daily Mail

How using Facebook could raise your risk of cancer

The Daily Mail

This is so bad I thought it was a parody, but I guess the Daily Mail’s science and medicine coverage is beyond parody. For example:

“* Yes, loneliness is bad for your health – but only YOU can cure yourself
* Drinking just one glass of wine a day can INCREASE risk of cancer by 168%, finds shock new study
* Menopause drug once thought safer than HRT ‘could raise risk of breast cancer relapse’”

Plotting social interaction against electronic media use over time (1987-2007) tells you nothing about causality. A correlation is not a causal explanation. If parents spend less time interacting with their children it has more to do with the long working hours culture in the UK than social networking, television, video games or any other technology scapegoat.

More people do indeed live alone. That might give a reason for keeping in contact with their significant others electronically. Also the success of online dating sites: that’s a lot of people trying to establish relationships. Poor health is linked with poverty. As is stress. And so on.
To make a convincing case that time online is displacing social contact you would have to demonstrate that people choose online interaction in preference to real-word interaction. All the evidence is that most people supplement or substitute online interaction for real world interaction.

Dr. Aric Sigman is the author of the paper, Well Connected?: The Biological Implications of ‘Social Networking’ published in the Spring edition of Biologist, Vol 56(1), the journal of the Institute of Biology.
From Dr. Aric Sigman’s website:
“NOTE: This paper has been misrepresented by many news reports as claiming that social networking causes cancer or disease. This is not true. The paper addresses the extent to which time online may be displacing face-to-face contact, and that lack of social connection is associated with physiological changes, increased incidence of illness and higher premature mortality.”
http://www.aricsigman.com/
download a press release

Eventually the Daily Mail’s readership will expire, if not through loneliness, alcohol and cancer, through demographic inevitability. The paper has an ageing readership.
In the meantime re-cycled press releases and moral panics about technology, health, relationships and family continue to substitute for journalism.
When old media veterans tell us that a lot of blogging is just ill informed ranting we should, of course, agree. If we compare a lot of blogs with writing in the NYT, Guardian and FT, much of it is nonsense.
And yet, if the decline of newspapers eliminates the Daily Mail’s coverage of health issues, we will be so much better informed.

Links
Business insider social-networks-increase-risk-of-cancer-and-dementia

BBC Online networking ‘harms health’

For how we raise our children and technology considered in a social context, see
Times Britain’s children are unhappiest in the Western world
Guardian British children: poorer, at greater risk and more insecure
Children’s Society report on Outdoor play

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