Oh, so now Twitter is making us immoral

University of Southern California scientists suggest that Twitter updates may be too fast for the brain's moral compass to process and will therefore harm young people.

In five minutes, please walk away from your computer, take out your moral compass, and ask it for an update. Then, please tweet the results.

Yes, after the powerful and persuasive arguments of M'lady Greenfield of England--she who declared that Facebook was making us infantile --we now have further cause to worry about ourselves and our children.

Scientists at the University of Southern California have broken away from their task of finding the next 20 or so great football talents for the university to conduct research suggesting that Twitter may take the nerve endings out of our sense of morality.

Here's how researcher Mary Helen Immordino-Yang put it to CNN: "If things are happening too fast, you may not ever fully experience emotions about other people's psychological states, and that would have implications for your morality."

The idea is that information is coming at us at such great speed that we don't have time to experience the pain or the joy that such information should engender.

But can he tell how you react to tweets? CC Jurvetson/Flickr

Apparently, when scientists scan our brains, they find that we are pretty quick at responding to any sign of physical pain in another human. But we are painfully slow at showing such feelings as compassion or admiration.

In this particular piece of research, the scientists relied on telling people different kinds of stories, and then scanning their brains and asking them to recall the stories, and the emotions attached to them, to see what effect the storytelling might have had.

I have to say that, given my occasional skepticism about research, there were only 13 people who had their brain scanned for this study.

Your brain might, at this point, be scanning the thought that if all the subjects of this research were from Los Angeles, it might be surprising that the scientists found any moral compass at all.

Of course, I couldn't possibly comment on that. I have at least three friends who live there. However, isn't the more general point that the demands of western life seem to have tended toward greater speed for the last 100 years?

Every piece of technology somehow offers a greater speed of something--information, communication, healing, pleasure. Somehow, one has a sense that humans do adjust. (But should they? Should they?)

Surely, any moral compass that exists in our souls is still more heavily influenced by those perennial scourges, like parents, teachers, lovers, social environment and, naturally, reality television.

Sorry. Must go and check my tweets.

OK, I'm back. Mark Cuban just tweeted: "Thought of the Day: "You don't live in the world you were born into" - think about it #FB."

Seems like a pretty moral tweet to me.

 

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