Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Email, IQ, and Pot

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.


Dilbert said...

It's funny -- I read that story differently. You ask, "Does 'staying connected' to our friends and loved ones offer employees psycho-spiritual benefits? What does it do to employee morale?" The implication is that communication with friends and loved ones is a good result of email.

I read the entire article as an indictment of the overuse of email and IMs in the business context as eroding the workers' value. When working in a "mind-numbing, soul-destroying" job, electronic distractions seem to be generated more by mind-numb, soul-less managers who repeatedly interrupt the business activities of subordinates to underscore how important the manager is. [How could what the subordinate is doing POSSIBLY be more important than what the manager wants at that instant?]

PeaceLove said...

You make a good point. I read it as suggesting that people were checking their personal email and taking personal phone calls too often. An obvious downside of "always on" connectivity at work is that it allows your boss much more ready access to you. Some bosses will inevitably abuse this access and cause stress in their workers.

PeaceLove said...

I realize looking at my reply above that I wasn't at all clear as to what was my point (I'm not sure I really knew when I wrote it.) I see now that my problem with the study (and the article), along with it's ignorant indictment of pot, was it's seeming slant towards indicting technology, a favorite scapegoat of the petrified news media. If, as Dilbert says, the problem is too much electronic communication from idiot bosses, then the REAL problem is not the technology but the boss. The technology has in fact served as a lens which accentuates the bad (and I would submit, good) qualities of a person and magnifies them, empowers them, but ultimately also can lead to their quicker downfall.

Neither pot nor technology deserves the rap. Both the study and the article are propaganda; that's why they annoyed me.