Cause and effect are two of the mainstays in scientific discovery. Assumptions, speculations and likelihoods are the business of gossip columns and not of objective reporting. With that said, one has to question the stories submitted by Britain's Sun, Daily Telegraph, The Independent, and today's article in the Daily News in New York, titled, " Facebook blamed for rising STD rates in Britain."
Roy GreensladeAccording to Roy Greenslade who writes for The Guardian, "all of these stories claimed that Professor Peter Kelly, executive director of public health for Teesside linked a fourfold increase of syphilis on Teesside to an increased use in social networking sites." (note: Teesside University is located in Middlesbrough, England). Kelly also cited increases in Durham and Sunderland.
Greenslade goes on further to state that while the source for the story was accurate, Kelly did not specificallyPeter Kelly point the finger at Facebook as the perpetrator, nor did he offer any proof to his assertions. The only connection that Kelly was able to draw was that students at Teesside were 25% more likely to log on to social networks like Facebook and last year there were 30 recorded cases of syphilis in the area. The only other conclusion drawn is that Teesside is one of the areas of Britain where Facebook is the most popular.
A Facebook spokesman said: “The assertion that Facebook is responsible for the transmission of syphilis is ridiculous. Facebook is no more responsible for STD transmission than newspapers responsible for bad vision. Today’s reports exaggerate the comments made by the professor, and ignore the difference between correlation and causation. As Facebook’s more than 400 million users know, our website is not a place to meet people for casual sex – it’s a place for friends, family and co-workers to connect and share.”
While frequent sexual encounters with casual partners welcomes STDs, the last time I checked I don't remember that updating my Facebook status had any direct correlation to increasing my desire for unprotected sex. As one TechCrunch reporter noted, "just because lots of left-handed people are gay does not mean that if you are left-handed you will be gay, or that gayness is caused by the same thing that causes left-handedness."
To use the "Kelly" logic, one could also conclude that the 25% of those infected in Britain were at least one in four to have contracted the sexually transmitted disease. Or that the other 75% were not using Facebook for its intended purpose? Or as some folks like to think of it- "Facebook is to Socializing, what Masturbation is to Sex!"