A Scottish researcher is making the case that spending time on Facebook can make you smarter. Tracy Alloway of the University of Stirling told the British Research Association that Facebook brings about educational benefits because it requires users to exercise their working memory—their ability, in other words, to store and manipulate information. The same goes, she says, for video games that require planning and strategy and for Sudoku.
Alloway bases her conclusions on studies of low-achieving children between the ages of 11 and 14 who spent time on a brain-training program that involved social-networking sites, playing video games, or using other kinds of digital media. The heaviest Facebook users, she found, boosted their IQ scores by as much as 10 points over the course of the study.
Twitter, text-messaging, and YouTube are an entirely different matter, Alloway says. They seem to have no IQ-enhancing effect, and may even harm the development of working memory.
“On Twitter, you receive an endless stream of information, but it's also very succinct,” Alloway says. "You don't have to process that information.”