Sunday 4 December 2016

20 ways the net can ruin your life

John Costello

Published 19/01/2012 | 06:00

Google: Anti-trust woes while it's social network, Google+, struggles to make an impact. Photo: Getty Images
Google: Anti-trust woes while it's social network, Google+, struggles to make an impact. Photo: Getty Images

When John Flexman ticked a box on networking site LinkedIn to register his interest in 'career opportunities', it cost him his €80,000-a-year job.

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Now the 34-year-old British executive has gained notoriety as the first person in the UK to bring a case for constructive dismissal after being sacked for posting his CV on LinkedIn.

"The internet and social media are important tools for helping to elevate you up the career ladder, but equally they can have the complete opposite affect," says career coach Paul Mullen.

Indeed, Flexman is not the first nor is he likely to be the last to have his career suffer due to his extracurricular online activities.

A group of male employees at the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers had their career prospects take a blow in 2010 after being caught forwarding a "top 10" email list of the most attractive female employees in the office.

And the future doesn't look too bright for the 16-year-old employee of US pizza chain Papa John's who was sacked last week after referring to a customer Minhee Cho as "lady chinky eyes" on a receipt. Cho then posted the receipt on Twitter.

In fact, one-in-20 participants in a UK study said they had either been fired or reprimanded for sending inappropriate messages in work.

But far from just ruining our careers, many believe the internet is destroying our social lives, health and well-being.

We have become so obsessive about checking our email and social networking accounts that some of us experience "phantom" vibrations, where we mistakenly believe their phone is buzzing in our pockets, according to research by the British Psychological Society.

We also can suffer withdrawal symptoms, if the results of a study of 200 University of Maryland students who gave up online media to see how they would cope is to believed.

When asked how they felt during the brief disconnection from their online lives, they described frantic cravings, anxiety and jitters, which mirrored those typical of people going through withdrawal from drugs or alcohol.

And the internet could be having an even more detrimental impact on our brains. Just last week a study found that internet addiction is linked to changes in the brain similar to those who are addicted to alcohol, cocaine and cannabis.

So before you text, surf or update your Facebook profile, sit back and read the 20 ways that the internet could be ruining your life . . . before it is too late.

It makes you stupid

While use of the internet has improved our ability to keep track of lots of rapidly changing signals, it has reduced our "abstract vocabulary, mindfulness, reflection, inductive problem solving, critical thinking and imagination," according to Patricia Greenfield, a developmental psychologist in UCLA's Children's Digital Media Center.

It is violating your privacy

Apple was left red-faced after its iPhones were discovered to be collecting and storing location data, while Google's street-mapping camera cars were caught collecting data on every domestic WiFi network they passed. No surprise given that Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg declared privacy in the age of social networking was "dead".

It's ruining your sex life

With an estimated 250 million pages of pornography on the internet, many of us find it increasingly difficult to be turned on by their actual sexual partners, spouses, or girlfriends, according to psychiatrist Norman Doidge of the University of Toronto.

It's disturbing your sleep

The National Sleep Foundation, based in the US, found that of the 63pc of individuals claiming a lack of sleep, 95pc said they surfed the web, texted or watched TV in the hour before going to bed.

It can destroy your relationships

Facebook was cited as a reason for a third of divorces in the UK last year, according to law firm Divorce-Online. The most common reason for Facebook causing matrimonial mayhem is where a spouse finds flirty messages or compromising photos of their partner partying with someone of the opposite sex.

It can falsely accuse you

When software engineer Lakshmana Kailash K was jailed for 50 days for posting defamatory pictures on Facebook, there was just one problem -- he was innocent. The police tracked him down after his internet provider supplied them with an Internet Protocol address. However, it turned out it was not his and he later sued the authorities.

It can make you infertile

Using a laptop to wirelessly connect to the internet can hamper a man's chances of fatherhood, say scientists. Sperm placed under a laptop using a WiFi connection suffered more damage than those kept at room temperature.

It can damage your immune system

Chronic overuse of social networking can upset your immune system and hormone levels by reducing levels of face-to-face contact, according to UK psychologist Dr Aric Sigman.

It can damage your teenager's health

Excessive use of the internet may cause parts of teenagers' brains to waste away, according to research carried out in China. This could affect their concentration and memory, as well as their ability to make decisions.

It doesn't let you bitch about your boss

While moaning about your boss is a time-honoured tradition, the internet has made it a more precarious pastime. Clerical assistant Aoife O'Mahony was fired for bitching about her boss on Facebook. The Employment Appeals Tribunal ruled in December her dismissal from PJF Insurances for calling her boss a "bitch" had not been unfair.

It makes you make more mistakes

Predictive text messaging changes the way children's brains work and makes them more likely to make mistakes, according to scientists in a Melbourne University. This makes them more prone to impulsive and thoughtless behaviour.

It is killing the art of conversation

A study by the Pew Research Centre has found that texting has become the most popular form of communication for teenagers, eclipsing phone calls, social networking sites and face-to-face conversation.

It can make you a dangerous driver

Drivers are 23 times more likely to crash when texting and are even more of a danger on roads than drunk drivers. Tests have shown reaction times deteriorate to 35pc when texting compared to 12pc for drivers at the legal alcohol limit and 21pc for those under the influence of cannabis.

It can clean out your bank account

While there are no current figures on Irish internet fraud, fraud against individuals in the UK amounted to £4bn (€4.6bn) in 2010. Of the 10,000 personal cases, 25pc were perpetrated online.

It can turn you into an addict

Internet addiction has been classified as a clinical disorder that can lead to a feeling of isolation, fatigue and withdrawal symptoms. Excessive gaming, viewing online porn, emailing and texting have been identified as key causes by Dr Jerald Block, of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

It fools you into thinking strangers are 'friends'

A party, below, advertised on a 16-year-old German's Facebook page required 70 police, a helicopter and dog handlers to stop 'guests' trashing the house and brawling on the street.

It is sabotaging your spelling

Social media websites have made the incorrect spelling of words more widely accepted, according to the English Spelling Society, which found children who learn using the Net do not question misspellings (such as 'liek' instead of 'like').

It is ruining pub quizzes

Smartphones have not only killed bar-room arguments over arcane trivia, but it has also sounded the death knell of local pub quizzes. Now 'Google-proof' quizzes involving lateral thinking and observation-based questions are taking over.

It is erasing your memory

The availability of information at the click of a button has changed the way we remember things, according to a study by Columbia University. It found we're less likely to remember something if we know we can find that information elsewhere.

It is turning you into a hypochondriac

When we feel a twinge or a headache, a new study has found we are most likely to turn to the internet first. But with 65pc diagnosing online, research warns of the dangers of misdiagnosis.

Irish Independent

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