The Cognitive Effects of Social Media in Small and Large Businesses


By: Suzanne Ostrander

Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield has researched the long- term effects of social media in the context of today’s businesses. In her novel, 2121, Greenfield argues that one of the most obvious “red flags” when it comes to hiring new college graduates is their dependency on social networking sites. In essence, this generation has become emotionally stunted as a result of the hours spent online. Interestingly, Greenfield believes that the social media revolution has reconstructed the brains of this generation to resemble those with Autism.  Without any form of non-verbal communication on sites like Facebook or Twitter, expressions of body language or tone slowly become overlooked.

“The human brain is only good at what it rehearses,” Greenfield remarks. “If you’re not rehearsing interpreting voice tone and body language, then you aren’t going to become very good at it. All those skills are vitally important. Until now, they’ve been our human birthright.”

Greenfield is suggesting that non-verbal communication is something that we must continue to practice, otherwise it will be forgotten.

When it comes to social media addiction, Greenfield worries that the Facebook-generation has become so used to seeking approval through idealized, rehearsed images of themselves that they no longer have the ability to be authentic.

“I’m not saying that we should ban [social media]. They’re part of the warp and weft of 21st century life. Very few people would deny anyone just a bit of chocolate,” she laughs. “But no one would recommend a diet just of chocolate.”

With the clear benefits that social media marketing has on small and large businesses, sites like Facebook and Twitter should not be banned in the business realm.  However, many corporations are taking measures to block employee access to such sites, in an effort to focus on interpersonal skills through face-to-face conversation.

Have you noticed a difference on how the younger generation perceives and uses social media sites?  In what ways have you seen the effects of social networking hinder the productivity and overall image of a business?

For access to Emma Byrne’s article on, click here:

For a video segment on Greenfield’s philosophy on the psychological effects on social media, click here:

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