back to article UK boffin: Social networking causes cancer, heart attacks, lupus, dementia...

There's mounting evidence that Facebooking, Twittering, and other "social networking" activities can kill you. A study (PDF) published in Biologist, the journal of the British Institute of Biology, details how face-to-face contacts with friends and family are being replaced by face-to-screen isolation, and how the lack of real …


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  1. evilbobthebob
    Black Helicopters

    Shock News!

    Living dramatically increases your chances of dying!

    Whether social networking damages your health or not is a bit irrelevant...however, the lack of communication in real life is a bit worrying. It's easier for the government to spy on electronic comms...

  2. jake Silver badge

    It ain't social networking, per se.

    It's sitting on your fat ass not getting enough exercise, that's the problem.

    Excuse me while I go dump some road-base in some potholes, and make sure none of my drainage is blocked ... We got a storm a'comin' ...

  3. Duncan Hothersall
    Dead Vulture


    This really pisses me off, because actually his article does NOT say that social networking does any of this. What it says is not networking physically does all of this.

    Someone who has an active social and family life and also uses social networks online is NOT affected by any of the ominous threats set out here.

    Once again, a load of old bollocks is being spouted in order to sell scientific research as news, and while I expect the mainstream media to just regurgitate, I would have hoped El Reg would point out the obvious flaw.

    Where's that bloody gravestone icon? Ah there's the little fucker.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it true

    Is it true that Scientology is behind all this?

  5. Hollerith

    we're only monkeys

    We should not lose sight of the fact that we're as Nature made us, and we thrive in groups. 'Billy No-mates' happens in monkeys and chicken and other herd animals, and its' pretty universal that health and social interaction are closely linked. Whether this has to be physical interaction (by that I mean actually in the same room as other people) will have to be proved, but I don't think we should discount the primitive-brain need for the smell and warmth and movement of our own kind. Our brains were formed expecting this like of sensory input. There's a reason that one of the cruelest punishments in prison is isolation.

    On the other hand, there are so many factors leading to poor health nowadays that to select TV and Twitter as the bad guys does seem a bit 'newspaper science', ie rubbish.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh please...

    It's never Lupus

  7. Nate H.


    I wanted to share this with my friends on Facebook, to see what they think of it...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Interesting. How does this apply to those of us who just plain find dealing with other people stressful, tiring, and unpleasant? Does being a bookworm cause all of these hideous ills, too? How about austisic people, do they get a lot more cancer than everyone else or something?

    I call baloney. Some of us just don't like dealing with others - or even being touched - and never have. The internet gives those of us like that a more meaningful alternative to having to deal with it anyway. I'm not convinced that's unhealthy.

    Now, sitting on your bum all day and never moving except to shovel more pizza into your face, that's another story...

  9. J


    "Real-world friendships help prevent heart attacks."

    As long as your friend is not a chimp...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We need to share ouir micro-flora?

    Two issues: Firstly, a claim that social networking "causes" the health problems is to not understand how to use the word "cause" correctly. Their is a correlation between people who spend a lot of their time social networking and who rarely go out with various health problems and illnesses. The cause has not been explained within this bit of research.

    Secondly, at least one poster feels that doing plenty of exercise cam help and will be OK for some that find face to face socialisation and physical contact/touch uncomfortable. Unfortunately for them we need frequent human contact to maintain health, not just because of the emotional well being we can feel but because about 5% of our body weight is made up from symbiotic micro-flora, ie non-human microorganism, that contribute to our immune systems and many metabolic functions. Without them our health deteriorates. Frequent physical and even initiate contact with loved ones helps maintain our micro-flora and, hence, out good health. We need to physically touch to stay healthy as well as do exercise (which can be done alone if you must).

  11. Anton Ivanov
    Paris Hilton

    Some grains of thruth... Some...

    "People should moderate how much they use the Internet and monitor the uses to which they put it."

    Actually: "People should use the Internet to communicate to real people, not invent virtual relationships and delude themselves into considering them as real". In other words - I do not quite see how this applies when you are communicating with people you know and the Internet is a continuation of face-to-face communication and vice versa.

    However, once you have realised that online "friends" are starting to replace real ones you really need to get out of the basement and go and see a shrink.

  12. Nathan Dennis
    Paris Hilton

    it has bugger all to do with Psychology!

    The reason we have all these diseases increasing in prevalance is simple, we spend too much time sitting down expending no energy and our food sources are high in sugars we dont need (even the low calorie ones) and a whole host of chemicals and other crap that arent needed either.

    Emotional wellbeing plays a part in health, but the main issue is activity or the lack of, so if your a sad f***er and you take no exercise your doubly screwed!

    Modern living is whats killing us and our children, the fact we sit on our arses using electronic forms of social networking is not really relevent its the complete lack of physical activity and the sheer amount of labour saving devices out there.

    Paris, at least her networking has a physical side!

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Death Awaits you all!!!!

    The end is nigh! A horrid, squelchy death await all who use the internet, follwed by an eternity burning in hell....


    Flames...well the flames of hell, obviously!

  14. Anonymous Coward


    So, the lifespan of introverts has always been less than extroverts. One swallow (unless it's wet) doesn't make a summer.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    ok then...

    Now, how do I post this to my facebook profile?

    mine's the one with the defibrillator in the pocket....

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does this mean...

    that I can get a prostitute on the NHS? Just to ensure I get my recommended daily dose of hugs and touching?

  17. Il Midga di Macaroni


    Does anyone think it's ironic that there's an easy link to "Share this story via your favourite social networking site"?

    Ah the beauty of standard headers and footers!

  18. Wyrmhole

    Could it be the other way around?

    Perhaps the lonely body generates less leukocytes than the social body because the lonely one is subjected to less germs..?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Tim

    Well said. Very eloquently spoken. And a F*ck you to all the haters who seem to think that they have a right to judge! FFS, i wouldn't mind betting that all the people, that commented negatively, would give their eye teeth for the ability to provide for their family as this man can. All you have to do is concentrate and work hard. A concept lost on most of the inhabitants of this green and pleasant land!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Invisible Energies

    It is well known amongst certain *cough* communities that the electro-magnetic forces produced by modern technology have a harmful effect on invisible life energies (although strangely they have lots of active shit on teh interwebs). Of course, these problems can be avoided through the strategic placement of expensive crystals and the wearing of a tinfoil hat.

    Mobile phone masts cause a tubercular miasma that is injurious to mental health but this can be remedied by a 30C dilution of Nux Vomica.

    Actually, I'm having mental health issues at the moment and in some ways social networking is a life-line in that it lets me interact with people when otherwise I would be totally isolated. Oh, sure Twatter and Facewank, etc, is a bit pointless, but I suspect that without the support I get from some of my internet contacts (I hesitate to call them "friends" because the Facewank thang) I would be in a much worse situation.

    In my case, the support I get helps me re-build my confidence and is enabling me to learn to do real world social stuff again.

    I do not doubt that there is a correlation between people who are extensive users of social networking and increased morbidity and mortality. As per other comments - correlation <> causation. But, if you are looking at the overall picture, you lose some of the detail. There are groups that probably have had a reduction in morbidity and mortality as a result of what the internet can offer. I know old folks whose life has been considerably enhanced by Skype.

    But it's about enabling stuff rather than it being an end in itself.


  21. David Richardson

    Smells like bull droppings

    "The good doctor also cites a study that "reports that 25 per cent of British five-year olds own a computer or laptop of their own.""

    O'Rly? I suppose those same 25% also have their own car and their dad is a 9 feet tall police man who could beat up your dad. Lies, damn lies and dodgy statistics.

    I imagine the rest of the stats he's basing this on would hold up to the same level of critical examination.

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. chris
    Thumb Up


    I love watching geeks defend themselves against perceived slights.

  24. David Wilkinson

    social networking is bad, just missused.

    I work at home and having online chat buddies keeps me from feeling isolated due to lack of co-workers.

    Also social networking can lead to having your real life needs met. Roughly 60% of my relationships have started with me meeting someone online, getting to know them for a week and them finally meeting them for a first date.

    The only time there is a problem is when people try to use Social Networking as a substitute for real life relationships.

  25. Pete "oranges" B.
    Thumb Up

    Well, I'm dead for sure.

    I don't even use the Internet for social networking, I'm here in front of the screen all the time because I think that stuff like the w3c XHTML certifier is awesome and I have a dual head setup so I can watch Firefly on hulu whilst simultaneously using said XHTML checker or learning more of the mysteries of Common LISP.

    Oh well, we all have to die of something, guess dying of nerdiness isn't so bad, right?

  26. Tharrick

    Social networking..

    ..probably *does* give you cancer. But so does Oxygen. In fact, just about everything can give you cancer.

  27. Seán


    What do they mean social interaction. Is it picking lice out of each others hair or using skype to have a 45 minute conversation with someone on the far side of the planet. The false dividing line between "technology" and meatspace is the major flaw in the study. It's hard to become immersed in Space Invaders but it's hard not to get hooked in to GTA4. The idea that coughing at people in the same room is better for you and your quality of life than alternate communication methods is without grounds.

    "He reports that social scientists have determined that over the last two decades, "the number of people saying there is no one with whom they discuss important matters nearly tripled." The number of both kin and non-kin confidants is "dramatically smaller."

    Well the amount of gobshites out there prepared to tell anyone the most boring details of their lives contradicts that weak conclusion.

    Basically this is a sad anti-intellectual mistake perpetrated by someone who is afraid of technology and equates a computer with a TV. Completely ignoring the internet and not studying reality because it would get in the way of the conclusions they wanted to reach.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Darwin wins again!

    Survival of the fittest, or in today's parlance: Survival of the less connected.

    A new species is being evolved: humans as we know them but without legs, with much smaller brains and very large guts.

    I call them: homo facespaceiens

    Penguins know about natural selection too!

  29. Alan Fisher


    "Cancer is the disease of regrets and extreme sadness" I can't remember who said that but have a look on wikipedia or ask someone on your friends list about it ;)

    there has been a corrolation between a number of c ancer cases and self distructive (although passively so) behaviour.....not universally accepted of course but these things never are

  30. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    It's never lupus...

    ...unless it is. The radiation from her old school CRT during those long Facebook sessions was an immune-suppressant, and the shade of desktop background she had chosen coincidentally aced as a therapy for her SAD which meant that her most prominent symptom was arthritis - which we wrote off as Second Life-related carpal tunnel syndrome. You were all idiots to miss something so obvious.

  31. Anonymous Coward


    Guns don't kill people..

    Social networking kills people.. as does video games, fast food, smoking, drinking, kehbabs, driving, walking, climbing and about pretty much every other thing you do in life...

    Lets face a species.. we're doomed!

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Oh yawn

    I bet these are the same scientists who thought eggs were bad for us. Well maybe not, but I bet their results aren't any more reliable.

  33. Anonymous Coward


    The Victorians said all this and more about masturbation.

  34. David

    Another poorly described article

    I think this goes to show the complete lack of understanding of some article writers - a basic lack of comprehension of the difference between correlation and causality. It is not the act of using social websites that would cause a shorter life expectancy - it's the fact that people who spend more time on social networks also spend less time socialising in person. They are correlated, not causal.

    This is like the study that was done in the US a while ago finding that people who smoke Cuban cigars live longer. This does not mean everyone should go and smoke cuban cigars to increase life expectancy. Only that people who do smoke them normally will have a lot of money and access to better healthcare.

    What does it take to get some articles that are not entirely misleading for the first half dozen paragraphs?

  35. Maty

    Try MMORPG

    Cancer and diabetes are the least of your worries. In the last month I've been lasered, chopped down with a chainsaw and eaten by something with too many teeth and claws. But hey, I *think* I managed a few moments of social interaction with that beastie before it got me.

  36. Andrew Meredith

    With baited breath

    I saw roughly the same article on another web site and googled the author of the "Learned" paper. I put forward the point about causation vs correlation and also the question: How have you separated the people who didn't go out for whatever reason, and filled their time using Facebook while they were in; from the people who prefer to go on Facebook than leave the building.

    No reply as yet ;-)

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely... a world without Facebook, the survivors would envy the dead.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    This is why God invented religion

    Unfortunately, we invented the internet anyway. I suspect Judgement Day is nigh. Better get some enough porn for when I spend eternity in Hell.

  39. Chris Taylor

    This is nonsense, and Greenfield should quit the RI too

    All you need to know about this is on the Bad Science blog. Ben Goldacre was on Newsnight a few nights ago ripping Sigman a new one (with a smile). Lots of HQ follow up on there.

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