I knew it all along. Now I have proof. A University of London study found that incessant use of email and text messaging lowers your IQ by 10 points. Ha! Those smug little people with their noses constantly buried in their BlackBerry devices think they're so smart! Yeah, right.
That 10-point drop is an average across all study participants. For some unexplained reason, male IQ declined five points and female IQ dropped 15 points. No doubt, men will boast of their ability to engage in messaging tasks with less harm to their intelligence, while women will suggest that the reason for the difference is that they have so many more points of IQ to begin with that the extra 10 points don't matter. I'm sure there are far better jokes about the difference between the sexes, but the political correctness squad would arrest me for publishing them, so I won't even bother to try to think of one. Besides, I've just finished checking my email, and that's probably rendered me incapable of thinking of one.
The research suggests that the IQ drop from emailing and text messaging is roughly on par with what you would experience after a sleepless night. So what would happen if the reason you had a sleepless night was that you were too busy answering email and text messages? I don't know the answer, but if you're planning to go to college, you might want to lay off the BlackBerry and get some sleep before writing the entrance exam.
The British researchers who discovered this phenomenon blame it on what they call "info-mania," which describes people who compulsively check their text and email messages during virtually all waking hours. In light of the study's findings, those people who loudly sing the praises of our now constantly connected world begin to sound pretty stupid, don't they? Maybe they've been using their email and BlackBerry devices too much.
In addition to doing clinical studies on 80 men and women, the researchers also interviewed 1,100 people. Of those, 89% said that it was extremely rude to interrupt a face-to-face meeting to answer a phone or messaging device, yet 21% said that they did so. That means that some respondents either were knowingly and intentionally rude or were inconsistent in their responses. Then again, low IQ doesn't typically lead to a lot of consistent thinking.
To be fair, it's possible that these people were neither intentionally rude nor contradictory. Maybe they couldn't help themselves. Fully 62% of the respondents admitted to being addicted to checking their email and messages even when they were at home or away on a vacation. Don't be too hard on these people. They have a disease. They need help.
Here's something else to consider: For both men and women, that 10-point IQ drop from excessive email and text message exceeds the four-point IQ drop experienced by marijuana smokers. Well, at least now we know what we really should be just saying no to.
I can see it now. After a massive public outcry over the problem, the U.S. federal government will probably introduce an anti-messaging campaign that includes laws against its recreational use. People will start hiding their BlackBerry devices under false bottoms in their suitcases or in the wheel wells of their cars whenever they cross the border.
I suspect that, after first following the American lead in banning recreational messaging, the Canadian parliament, in response to a successful constitutional challenge before the Supreme Court of Canada, will pass an act allowing the use of messaging for medical purposes. It will likely then endlessly debate another bill that, if passed, will decriminalize the use of small amounts of messaging while keeping it as a misdemeanor offense and maintaining severe criminal penalties against the trafficking of messaging services.
While we're talking about governments and messaging, I read that, these days, most people who spend their time in the political arena are addicted to their BlackBerry devices. Apparently, they get very nervous if they're away from their devices for even brief periods or if they go for very long without hearing the beep of an incoming message. Considering the findings of this new study, that explains a lot about politics today.
The current situation isn't entirely bad for everybody. I see a novel defense for people facing charges in the notorious big-business accounting scandals and in the major political scandal that, as I'm writing this, dominates the media and parliament here in Canada: diminished capacity due to excessive messaging. Can't you just hear it? "Your honor, I can't be held responsible for my actions. My incessant but totally necessary messaging and emailing lowered my IQ, rendering me unable to distinguish between right and wrong. Don't blame me. Sue the email and messaging vendors instead."
Of course, BlackBerry addicts deny the report's findings, saying, "That's nonsense. I use my BlackBerry at least two hours in the morning, three in the afternoon, and another two in the evening. That makes at least...uh...um...I'll get it...give me a minute...um, right, two plus three plus two, that makes at least, um, eleven hours every day or so. Despite that, I'm no less...what's the word?...it'll come to me...it's on the tip of my tongue...it rhymes with heart...I think it starts with an S, but I'm not sure...you know, the opposite of stupid...oh yeah, I'm no less, um, not stupid than I used to be."
It's not just our brains that are being ruined by this stuff. According to the Washington Post, orthopedists are reporting an increase in the number of cases of what they're calling "overuse syndrome" or "BlackBerry thumb." The symptoms include sometimes excruciating pains between the thumb and the wrist. Of course, while BlackBerry gets the headlines, the problem is not limited to those devices. Any keyboard designed for thumb-typing can cause the same injury if used excessively.
The Washington Post reported that one sufferer stopped using her BlackBerry entirely after she found that just cutting down and taking frequent breaks did not eliminate the pain caused by the tendonitis that was brought on by her excessive thumb-typing. She went through 12 weeks of therapy to finally cure the pain and even then it came back three months later. This sufferer's comments on giving up her BlackBerry were, "I'm frustrated. I'm making more phone calls.... I hate not being efficient."
Excuse me? Just how efficient do you think you'll be when you lose the use of your opposable thumbs? Those opposable thumbs and our superior brain power are what set us above most other animals on this planet. Now we've got some devices that are doing their best to ruin both our brains and our thumbs. And they call this progress.
Getting rid of your BlackBerry-induced thumb pain might take a long time even if you quit cold turkey, but there is good news on the IQ front. The University of London research shows that the drop in IQ is temporary. If you stop being obsessive about email and messaging, your IQ will quickly recover. Did you hear me? Stop being so obsessive about your use of email and messaging! Do I need to spell it out for you? Oh, wait. Maybe I do need to spell it out for you if you've been doing too much emailing and messaging.
The only problem that I see with that prescription is that if I cut down on my emailing (I hate and don't use messaging), then what excuse am I going to give for my falling IQ? I'll have to go back to blaming my advanced age.