This silly story reminds me why I never trust the mainstream media to get anything right. Notice that there's nothing in the story about the methodology used to determine that "[t]he constant barrage of emails, text messages, and phone calls decreases IQ test scores in office workers more than twice as much as smoking marijuana." For instance, were they only checking to see if workers were less efficient, or were they measuring specific abilities over time?
My take on this story is that the vast majority of people work mind-numbing, soul-destroying jobs in the first place. Given this, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising to discover that those who have more interesting and rewarding things to do (like cruising the web and connecting to friends and loved ones) might just be less focused on their dull jobs. Whether email makes them less capable of doing their job is another thing entirely; I wonder how solid was the methodology by which the researchers that made THAT determination.
An important, and unasked (at least, as reported) question is, "Do people feel that email makes their life better or worse?" A lot of people complain about the downside of "always on" connectivity, but how many would willingly give it up? In other words, is there an upside that might offset the alleged IQ drop? Does "staying connected" to our friends and loved ones offer employees psycho-spiritual benefits? What does it do to employee morale?
And, how about the claim, unsupported by facts, that marijuana lowers your IQ? Even if you accept the claim, and even if you accept the notion that IQ is a meaningful measure of ANYTHING, the critical question should be, "What's the relationship between IQ and productivity, quality of life, emotional happiness, and peacefullness? How many of the 20-30 million recreational smokers feel that the benefit they derive -- intellectual, emotional, or spiritual -- offsets the allegedly lowered IQ?
That's what you get if you believe what you read in the papers.
UP NEXT: A neat analysis of the mainstream news from Salon's smart blogger Scott Rosenberg.