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Bullshit Hell in a handcart Media

This is nearly the ultimate Daily Mail story: Facebook causes cancer

All that’s missing is a reference to house prices or immigrants.

How using Facebook could raise your risk of cancer:

Social networking sites such as Facebook could raise your risk of serious health problems by reducing levels of face-to-face contact, a doctor claims.

3 replies on “This is nearly the ultimate Daily Mail story: Facebook causes cancer”

Well, I have to ask. How does The Mail‘s report significantly distort Dr Sigman’s report?

A reduction in direct social connections is associated with a growing number of specific physiological alterations and significant health risks …

Global alterations in human gene transcription, immune system cytokines and Natural Killer (NK) cells, narrowing of major arteries, incidence of stroke, early death, high blood pressure, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and even the common cold, can all be linked to changes in our social patterns.

….

Immunological changes: Changes in people’s social contact are linked to alterations in important compounds involved in tumour regression and increased survival times for cancer patients.

Looks like a very fair, balanced, and certainly not sensationalist report to me. In fact, the original press release on which it’s based comes across as significantly scarier, in my opinion. Course, if the press release Sigman sent them is sensationalist bollocks, that’s another matter, but I certainly don’t know enough psychology to be the judge of that.

Charles Arthur did a nice piece about it on the Guardian tech blog:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2009/feb/19/twitter-networking-cancer-study

Basically, there’s a lot here about social networks – but used in the old-school sense, of the number of people you physically meet, cuddle, interact with face-to-face. What isn’t dealt with is the question of whether social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, even Skype, which let you interact – at a distance – with people in real time count, for the purposes of sociology, as “real” social networks or as intermediated communication.

The problem seems to be the press release, which suggests the social networking angle. But that points to the bigger problem, which is “X causes cancer/cures cancer” pieces are based on reading a press release. Doesn’t matter if your story is “new gadget has shiny buttons”; does matter if it’s about health.

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