Tech bloggers adore social media. So when Twitter, Facebook, or sundry other social media come under fire from the
mainstream press, they tend to circle the wagons and defend vigorously.
Yesterday, a number of British newspapers reported on a link between
Facebook and syphilis. Health experts in Britain found that in areas
where Facebook is most popular, rates of syphilis increased fourfold.
They came to the debatable conclusion
Facebook helps young people engage in casual sex. The reports caused a
rift in the tech blogging world, with some dismissing the news. These writers homed in on flaws in the reporting about the study. Others
accepted it, saying this proves the real-world power of social networking, for good or ill.
- Classic Luddite Argument, sneers Matthew Ingram at Gigaom: "'Going
viral' has never been a more appropriate metaphor... It seems to be
human nature to take whatever new social behavior or technology happens
to be popular and associate that with everything bad that occurs — even
if those bad things have been happening forever."
- So Many Problems With This Conclusion, writes Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch: "For
one, the articles in question say that the number of Syphilis infections
in the English town of Teesside has grown to a whopping thirty cases in
2009 (up from a mere ten cases the previous year). Sure, that’s a big
jump percentage-wise, but the small sample size and the complete lack of
details about any of these studies makes the conclusion that Facebook
can somehow be linked to Syphilis extremely dubious...This sounds more
like an observation based on a small number of cases rather than an
established trend, and it doesn’t say anything about causation."
- Actually the Study Makes a Modest Point, writes Michael Kulrfeld at The Next
Web: "Now Facebook won’t sneak into your room at night and inject you
with Syphilis, but the data is sensible in a way: people on social
networks sometimes use them to find casual sex. And unprotected casual
sex is a fantastic way of getting an STD. So just think of Facebook as a
vector to a vector."
- It's Not an Absurd Idea, writes the social media-friendly
blogger Jennifer Van Grove at
Mashable: "With 400 million members now spanning the world, it does
make sense that more hookups would happen with Facebook as the
facilitator and go-between."
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