Facebook slightly worse for GPA than coma, study shows

February 5, 2010
By Jackson Miller

A new study pub­lished this week by researchers at the University of Arizona shows that stu­dents engaged in mild-to-moderate coma fare bet­ter on exams than stu­dents who fre­quently access their Facebook accounts.

“I’m not sur­prised,” said Arizona sopho­more Paul Xiao dur­ing a break from click­ing through his ex-girlfriend’s lat­est photo album.  “Every time I sit down to study, I let myself check Facebook one more time.  I start stalk­ing and next thing I know, it’s 2am and I under­stand the inside jokes of peo­ple I haven’t seen since junior high school.”

A stu­dent exhausted by hours of read­ing inane sta­tus updates

Facebook addic­tion, as it has come to be rec­og­nized, has many ill effects on the aca­d­e­mic lives of suf­fer­ers.  Chronic dis­trac­tion, rest­less­ness, dis­il­lu­sion­ment with human­ity, and creepi­ness have all been linked to high lev­els of Facebook activ­ity.  Coma, on the other hand, rarely has a neg­a­tive effect on grades—most stu­dents engag­ing in them are exempt from tak­ing exams.

Although the Arizona study is the first clin­i­cal exam­i­na­tion of the rela­tion­ship between grades and debil­i­tat­ing wastes of time, rec­og­niz­ing Facebook addic­tion as a learn­ing dis­abil­ity is not new.  Researchers lob­by­ing for its inclu­sion in the DSM-IV, the stan­dard man­ual for diag­nos­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal con­di­tions, have sep­a­rated Facebook addic­tions into two lev­els of acuity.

Milder cases of depen­dence are char­ac­ter­ized by fre­quent checks for new noti­fi­ca­tions at inap­pro­pri­ate times (e.g. class, doctor’s appoint­ments, sex).  Severe cases have been harder to study because suf­fer­ers often turn off Facebook Chat to hide their nearly-constant online presence.

Anecdotal evi­dence sug­gests that these chronic suf­fer­ers obses­sively update their sta­tuses with cryp­tic song lyrics, responses to tele­vi­sion shows they’re watch­ing, and tedious details about what kind of day they’re hav­ing.  Preliminary stud­ies show that while all Facebook addicts play FarmVille, only the most severely affected are will­ing to admit it.

There is hope for those afflicted by Facebook, how­ever.  Researchers have made promis­ing strides treat­ing addicts with Sociesta, a pre­scrip­tion med­ica­tion proven to stim­u­late the social lives of patients.

“We pretty much just mixed alco­hol and Viagra,” said Sociesta inven­tor Mike McCarthy.  “Being drunk and hav­ing a tena­cious erec­tion really helps rearrange your priorities.”

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