There’s no denying that Facebook makes it easier to connect with old friends and distant relatives, but this convenience might come at a heavy cost. West London Mental Health Trust psychiatrist Himanshu Tyagi warns that because social networking makes communicating such a fast paced and dynamic experience, people might become desensitized to their real-world relationships. Younger people who’ve grown up with the Internet are particularly at risk, he says, since they sometimes place heavy emphasis on their virtual identities and may undervalue face-to-face interaction as a result.
Psychologist Aric Sigman goes even further, saying that because Facebook enables people to live an increasingly isolated existence, their health may suffer. Pointing to studies that illustrate how the body’s genes and hormone levels react to personal interaction, Dr. Sigman contends isolation puts the body at risk for a number of ailments including heart disease, strokes and even cancer.
Fortunately for Facebook users, not everyone thinks the site is turning the world into hermits. A Cambridge University study of Facebook users found that the site can be a useful tool for maintaining relationships that might otherwise be lost. Additionally, the study’s participants found Facebook useful for getting a better-rounded view of their friends and family and ultimately felt that the site gave them more options for how they interacted with others. Of course, if the next myth on our list has some truth to it, you may want to log off regardless of how the site affects your social skills.