By David DiSalvo - Posted Jun 01, 2016
The retweet is a major social currency of our time. Even if we generally aren’t reading the stuff we’re retweeting, it seems harmless enough to share whatever grabs a sliver of our interest.
But then again, maybe it’s not so harmless. So argues a new study by a research team from Cornell University and Beijing University. The researchers wondered if retweeting and otherwise sharing information online steals away mental resources that could aid in comprehending, recalling, and maybe even beneficially using the content.
Think of it as a reposting tax on your brain.
To test the theory, the researchers presented two groups of students with messages from Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. After reading each message, one group had the option of either reposting it or going on to the next message. The other group wasn’t able to repost and could only move on to the next message. Both groups were then given a test on how well they comprehended and recalled the content of the messages.
People in the repost group had twice as many wrong answers as the non-repost group and significantly worse comprehension of the content. The comprehension results were especially bad for the messages they reposted even if they could remember the topics.