I didn’t make up this headline: I saw it on Twitter and I had the same reaction you did. But it’s no joke—as I discovered when I checked out the original story in the London Daily Mail. Here’s an excerpt:
Social networking sites such as Facebook could raise your risk of serious health problems by reducing levels of face-to-face contact, a doctor claims.
Emailing people rather than meeting up with them may have wide-ranging biological effects, said psychologist Dr. Arie Sigman.
Increased isolation could alter the way genes work and upset immune responses, hormone levels and the function of arteries. It could also impair mental performance.
The number of hours people spend interacting face-to-face has fallen dramatically since 1987 as electronic media use has risen.
This could increase the risk of problems as serious as cancer, strokes, heart disease and dementia, Dr. Sigman says in Biologist, the journal of the Institute of Biology.
And I thought a virus was the only medical risk from a computer.
I’ve recently embraced the virtual world with a passion; and I struggle to find a balance with other things–and sometimes people— I feel slipping away. I can’t forget studies I’ve read that document how much healthier people are when they have more social contact. I even have evidence of this myself.
When I got cancer I was living in a new community where I had almost no friends. The internet was in its infancy compared to now; Facebook was a fantasy. All my friends were across the country or in Los Angeles. I was isolated and lonely.
I was seeing a therapist to cope with having cancer; and one day she said she had a recommendation for a prescription that would help. At the end of our session, she wrote something on a prescription pad and handed it to me:
Human contact with friends: To be taken twice daily either by phone or in person.
She urged me to take it seriously and follow it strictly, and to start making new friends. In person.
And I did. I followed her prescription from that day on and for the entire time I was being treated for cancer. I made sure every day to call old friends, and to seek out new ones– in person.
I can’t say this cured me of cancer. But it did cure me of loneliness. And it started me on the way to building the wonderful friendships I have where I live.
As I reconnect with old friends and make new ones in cyberspace, it’s nourishing and fun and it’s opened up an entire community of connections online. But there are moments when I feel as if I’m missing something. And I think maybe it’s about time to refill that prescription.