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Anti-social networking

Prof loses face in Facebook face-off

Susan Greenfield talks in Oxford

Greenfield claims to have made more friends through brown-nosing at media dos than via social networking websites

photo: Andy Miah

Eminent academic Susan Greenfield this week decided to abuse her position as media-flirt extraordinaire and pontificate on ills which might result from people using the Internet, forgetting that her rôle as a scientist might require evidence to support her claims.

The Right Honourable Professor Baroness Greenfield, who is Director of the Royal Institution and a member of the House of Lords, suggested to the BBC World Service that a recent increase in autism, and a recent increase in use of the Internet might be linked. ‘There has also been a decrease in use of the MMR vaccine as a result of a decade of media smears suggesting that it caused autism,’ she told journalists, ‘So we can’t rule out the fact that not being vaccinated might cause autism, or perhaps not being vaccinated causes people to use social networking sites.’

Desperately scrabbling for positives in order to present a media-savvy ‘balanced’ argument, she continued, ‘At least you can’t catch mumps off Facebook, unless one of your friends adds the mumps application and “infects” you.’

Psychologist Dr Francis Bargle was willing to wildly speculate for KTAB. ‘Greenfield’s rant is almost certainly the result of what we’ve dubbed “social networking exclusion syndrome”. The only thing that could have made her this irrationally angry with the social networks is if she joined Facebook, and no-one responded to her friend requests, messages or pokes.

‘Alternatively, perhaps she uploaded the text for one of her popular science books as a Facebook note, and Mark Zuckerberg now owns it due to a clause in the new Facebook T&Cs.’

The storm was started when Dr Aric Sigman published an article, available on the Biologist website, speculating that use of the Internet could lead to increased risk of many ailments, which the Daily Mail Chinese whispers department thought might include cancer.

‘Jade Goody used Facebook!!!’ cried angry mother and Mail reader Claire Timkins. When asked by KTAB if she wished to retract this baseless and rather tasteless accusation, she screamed ‘My social skills have been destroyed by over-use of e-mail and text messaging, leaving me unable to judge whether it is inappropriate or not!!’ adding, ‘LOL.’

 

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