A new study shows that your Facebook account may reveal some interesting things about your brain and your intellect–and it has nothing to do with those deep, thought-provoking quotes people copy from someone else and post as their own. Nope, the clues to your brain–and just how big it might be–can supposedly be found by the number of online friends you have.
According to a new study by the University College of London, scientists have found a direct correlation between the number of Facebook friends a person has and the size of certain regions of the brain. In addition, but not as surprising, they found that the more friends a person has online, the more friends they are likely to have in the real world. Oh, so someone with 2,000 “friends” really didn’t make them all up?
UCL Researcher, Professor Geraint Rees, stated:
Online social networks are massively influential, yet we understand very little about the impact they have on our brains. This has led to a lot of unsupported speculation the Internet is somehow bad for us.
But apparently, it could be good for us, after all. At least in some respects.
After analyzing brain scans from 125 university students who were active Facebook users, researchers found a strong connection between the number of Facebook friends they had and the amount of gray matter (the brain tissue that gathers and processes sensory information and linked to intelligence) in several regions of the brain. This included areas responsible for memory and emotional responses, as well as navigation and social cues.
You may remember that prior studies have linked Facebook to higher levels of false confidence, narcissism and even substance abuse. Others have theorized that people who spend a great deal of time online are socially inept. So which is it? Is Facebook good or bad for us? Is it really making us smarter and more popular?
Rees explained that it actually has more to do with reinforcing what we already have:
Our findings support the idea that most Facebook users use the site to support their existing social relationships, maintaining or reinforcing these friendships, rather than just creating networks of entirely new, virtual friends.
So before you start stalking friends to see how many friends they have and scurrying to add more of your own, Heidi Johansen-Berg, a neuroscientist at the University of Oxford, told Reuters that we should take heed:
If you got yourself 100 new Facebook friends today then your brain would not be bigger tomorrow. The study cannot tell us whether using the Internet is good or bad for our brains.
Darn, adding a bazillion more friends would have been a heck of a lot easier than finishing War and Peace or calculus class.