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New Study Suggests Social Media Harms May Be Overstated

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  • A study by researchers at the University of Oxford found that the amount of time young people spend on social media has little impact on their overall life satisfaction.
  • The researchers argue that society should instead focus less on screen time and more on whether particular aspects of online behavior or content are harmful.
  • Similar studies have been conducted in the past giving conflicting conclusions on social media’s impact, however, the research team says that this is partly because data is limited.
  • They are asking tech companies to collaborate with researchers to better explore social media’s effects on overall health and well being.  

Study Finds “Trivial” Impact on Life Satisfaction

Time spent on social media has only a “trivial” impact on happiness among adolescents, according to a new study from the University of Oxford.

The research team conducted a study involving more than 12,000 UK adolescents between 2009 and 2017. Researchers asked the thousands of participants to share how much time they spent using social media on a normal school day. The participants were also asked to rate how satisfied they were with different aspects of life.

The study found that the amount of screentime only had a small negative impact on how happy the children felt about life. Instead family, friends, and school life all had a greater impact on well being.

“99.75% of a young person’s life satisfaction across a year has nothing to do with whether they are using more or less social media,” said Professor Andrew Przybylski, co-author of the research from Oxford University.

The team did say that the effects of time spent on social media had a wider impact on girls over boys, but even so, they said the effects remain very small.

“On an individual basis, time shouldn’t be the thing that parents are worrying about,” said Przybylski. “Thinking about social media like it’s a black box that has kind of a ticking clock on top of it – that way of thinking about screen time is almost certainly wrong.”

Talk to Your Children

Instead, Przybylski said that there are other avenues that researchers need to explore. “It is entirely possible that there are other, specific, aspects of social media that are really not good for kids … or that there are some young people who are more or less vulnerable because of some background factor,” he said.

The research team added that parents should worry less about how much time their children spend on social media sites and instead talk to them about their specific experiences.

“Just as things went awry offline, things will also go awry online, and it is really important for that communication channel to be open,” said Amy Orben, co-study author and psychology lecturer at the University of Oxford

Conflicting Data

The question of the potential impact social media has on young people is one that has been asked many times before, and has resulted in conflicting data. Some studies have suggested that social media could be hurting children’s mental health, while others have said it has positive effects on socialization.

However, Przybylski says that studies are often based on limited evidence and do not give the full picture. In fact, the research team suggested that other studies may have failed to account for the fact that some teens who were already more depressed to begin with may spend more of their time on social media.

“With most of the current debate based on lacklustre evidence, this study represents an important step towards mapping the effects of technology on wellbeing,” said Przybylski

But even this particular study had its limitations. It relies on self-based reported time on social media and does not include how exactly that time was spent or on what platforms.

The researchers at Oxford are urging tech companies to release data on how people use social media in order to help them understand more about the impact technology has on younger people’s lives.

“Access is key to understanding the many roles that social media plays in the lives of young people,” Orben said.

“What this shows us is we need to stop looking at social media as a whole and we need to start thinking about the nuances.”

Dr. Max Davie, officer for health improvement at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, told the Guardian that he also supported the call for companies to work with scientists, calling the study“the first small step.”

However, he said there were other issues that needed to be explored. For instance, he suggested more research should be done to analyze screen time’s interference with activities like sleep, exercise and time with family or friends.

Despite its limitations, Professor Liz Twigg from Portsmouth University, who is currently leading a large-scale study of the impact of social media on children, welcomed the study.

“As the authors themselves recognise, no study like this provides definitive evidence, but this one certainly provides compelling evidence,” she said.

See what others are saying: (Sky News) (BBC) (The Guardian)


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India Pedestrian Bridge Collapsed 4 Days After Renovations, Killing Over 100 People

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The company responsible for the upkeep of the Morbi bridge did not obtain a safety certificate before re-opening.


Bridge Collapses

After seven months of renovations, the Morbi walking bridge in India opened to the public. Four days later, the bridge collapsed, killing more than 130 people. 

According to the local government, there were about 200 people on the bridge when it collapsed on Sunday, despite its capacity of 125. 

During a campaign event on Monday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the state government had set up a committee to investigate the tragedy.

“I assure the people of the country that there will be nothing lacking in the relief and rescue efforts,” he stated.

Along with the investigation, the state has launched a criminal complaint against Oreva Group, the company responsible for maintaining the bridge. Oreva Group reopened the bridge after renovations without getting a safety certificate from the government. 

Shifting Blame

In response, Oreva Group spoke to a local news outlet and blamed those on the bridge for its collapse.

“While we are waiting for more information, prima facie, the bridge collapsed as too many people in the mid-section of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other,” the group claimed.

The state government has offered compensation for the families of the deceased, but that is not enough for some. One father whose wife and two children died in the collapse told VICE he wants answers and accountability.

“Why were so many people given tickets? Who allowed them? Who is answerable?” he asked.

Indian police have arrested nine people including ticketing clerks and security guards for failing to regulate the crowd, according to Reuters. 

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (VICE) (CNN)

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Xi Jinping Tightens Grip on China by Eliminating Rivals

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Despite the staggering power grab, Xi faces geopolitical competition from abroad as well as social and economic instability at home.


Xi Surrounds Himself With Allies

Chinese President Xi Jinping shook up politics over the weekend when he revealed the government’s new leadership, almost exclusively composed of his own hardline loyalists.

Six men — Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang, and Li Xi — will form the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top ruling body.

The four new members are all Xi loyalists, pushing out Premier Li Keqiang and the head of China’s top advisory body Wang Yang, two key party figures outside Xi’s inner circle who retired despite being eligible to serve another term.

For the first time in a quarter-century, China’s 24-member Politburo will be made up entirely of men, underlining the exclusion of women from Chinese politics.

An official account of the selection process said that a top criterion for leadership was loyalty to Xi, and rising officials must stay in lockstep with him “in thinking, politics and action.”

Topping off the developments, Xi officially secured an unprecedented third term as leader, something that was only made possible in 2018 when the government abolished term limits on the presidency. The weekend marked China’s greatest consolidation of political power in a single figure in decades.

As the 20th Communist Party Congress came to a close Saturday, China’s former leader Hu Jintao appeared reluctant as he was suddenly and inexplicably escorted from his seat next to Xi out of the Great Hall of the People.

Some commentators have argued that a tightly knit band of yes men may help Xi fend off internal party dissent, but it could ultimately result in poor governance as his subordinates fear giving him bad news.

The Arc of History Bends Toward China

Despite the extreme concentration of political power, China’s Communist Party stares down a gauntlet of challenges both foreign and domestic.

Beijing remains locked in a strategic competition with Washington, which has sought to contain the East Asian rival’s rise as a global superpower, but the past week’s congress may portend a stubbornly defiant China for years to come.

Xi is expected to use his firmly secure position within the party to pursue his agenda in full force — by strengthening Beijing’s claim over Taiwan, expanding China’s economic foothold in developing countries, and achieving self-sufficiency in strategic technologies such as semiconductors.

At home, China’s economy has faltered during the pandemic, with high unemployment, low consumption, and slow economic growth putting pressure on a government that stakes much of its legitimacy on promises to deliver prosperity to the population. Between July and September, the country’s GDP grew by 3.9%, according to official data released Monday, which is above many analysts’ expectations but still far below the state’s target of around 5.5%.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics postponed the data’s publication last week ahead of the 20th party congress, reinforcing concerns that Xi’s leadership will put politics before economics.

Monday’s announcement roiled stock markets, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index plunging 6%, as well as the Shanghai Composite and the Shenzhen Composite Index both falling by about 2%.

Beijing has also seen increased political resistance from the population, from anti-lockdown protests in Shanghai to widespread mortgage boycotts over delays from real estate developers.

Last week, a man unfurled two large banners from an overpass in Beijing and called President Xi a “dictator” through a megaphone.

Such small-scale demonstrations are not new, but they took place in the capital just before the congress drew enough attention for photos of the stunt to go viral on social media, where an equally swift censorship campaign stamped out any mention of it.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (The Washington Post)

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Elon Musk Walks Back Threat to Cut Ukraine’s Starlink Internet Service

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Although the satellites have been invaluable for Ukrainian military operations, outages have left soldiers without communication devices in recent weeks.


Let Them Eat Satellites

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on Saturday that his company would continue funding internet service for Ukraine after declaring that he would have no choice but to cut it off the day prior.

“The hell with it,” he tweeted. “Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the often jocular billionaire was being sarcastic, but in response to another Twitter user he said, “We should still do good deeds.”

SpaceX’s Starlink satellites help the Ukrainian military operate drones, receive intelligence updates and communicate out in the field, which is vital since many regular internet and cellular phone networks have been destroyed by Russia.

At least 20,000 satellite terminals have been donated to Ukraine since the spring, but SpaceX has footed the bill for a small minority of them. According to a letter the company sent to the Pentagon last month, around 85% of the terminals were paid for in part or in full by the United States, Poland, and other entities, who also covered some 30% of the internet connectivity.

SpaceX claimed in the letter that Starlink services for Ukraine would cost over $120 million for the rest of the year and nearly $400 million for the next 12 months.

“We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” it said.

The company, therefore, requested that the Pentagon take over funding for the satellite terminals.

Earlier this month, Musk claimed on Twitter that Ukraine’s Starlink services had cost SpaceX $80 million so far.

On Friday, following CNN’s publication of the SpaceX letter, Musk reaffirmed that his company “cannot fund the existing system indefinitely, *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households.”

He added, however, that it was not seeking to recoup past expenses.

On Monday, Politico reported that the Pentagon is considering paying for the Starlink satellite network from a fund that has been used to supply weapons and equipment over the long term, according to two U.S. officials who are involved in the deliberations.

Starlink Leaves Ukraine’s Soldiers Stranded

Ukrainian troops experienced “catastrophic” outages in their Starlink communication devices in recent weeks, according to a Financial Times report earlier this month.

The services reportedly stopped functioning at critical moments, such as when soldiers breached the front lines into Russian-controlled territory or engaged in pitched battles.

“They were acute in the south around the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, but also occurred along the frontline in eastern Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk,” an official told the outlet.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to annex all four regions and held referendums widely considered to be a sham justification for his conquest of the Donbas.

The regions are also the focus of a massive Ukrainian counteroffensive that has sent Russian troops scrambling in recent weeks.

One Starlink donor reportedly believed the outages were a result of SpaceX’s efforts to block Russian forces from misusing Starlink terminals.

As Ukrainian soldiers liberated Russian-occupied territory, the sources said, public announcements of their gains lagged behind, and so did Starlink’s coverage.

Another official told the outlet that connection failures were widespread and led to panicked calls from soldiers to helplines.

Musk responded to the report by tweeting, “As for what’s happening on the battlefield, that’s classified.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (Financial Times)

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