Dr Aric Sigman was all over the TV, press and web yesterday talking about how, he has discovered, social media can give you cancer. His theory is, this loneliness brought about by more time spent in front of electronic devices, doing social networking, does something to our genes. When we're social, we have reduced morbitiy in our genes. When we are the opposite (lonely) then we get ready to kick the bucket. Anchoring his theory is the notion that time spent using social media is lonely time. Here are his words, so that you can see where it's coming from.
"Couples now spend less time in one another's company and more time at work, commuting,
or in the same house but in separate rooms using different electronic
[I violently disagree with this sweeping statement, but let's give Sigman some space]
"...a trend that looks likely to continue."
[if this was the trend I'd agree, but he's still swinging his carcinogenic scythe]
I'm not sure if time spent using technology to socialise is as lonely as Sigman suggests. Sure, a poke on Facebook isn't the same as a hug [a point taken from Sigman's press release]. But there's a balance between the impact social media has on bringing people together - people that would otherwise have had less contact with one another, and the time it takes up in your life taking you away from hugging people.
If I am to stay true to my digital roots though, I'd actually go back and challenge Sigman's belief that spending more time in front of devices in different rooms is a growing trend. Connections to the social web are increasingly mobile. Laptops are on in the sitting room, Twitter and Facebook are on the mobile, and smartphones often negate the pull to the computer in the other room. Look at this photo from a recent feature the New York times as just one example.
I see a future where connections to the social web are ubiquitous, they don't pull us away from one another, they enable us to maintain our social, face to face lives, whilst devices that fit easily around us, not anchor us to solitary places, empower us to connect with those we could not do without the web easily.