Now there's officially no reason to leave the house. Ever. We can call in food, clothing and gadget deliveries. We can pay our bills online. Thanks to infomercials, we can exercise in the comfort of a door frame. And today we discover that we can get all randy (or depressed) chatting with significant others on IM or its cousin, the text message. So says Jeffrey Hancock and his team at Cornell University anyway, and who are we to argue with scientists?
The findings go against popular opinion, which says SMS and IM are the devil, and will lead to the downfall of today's youth. Next to traipsing on people's lawns, IMing friends instead of going outside to play is the leading cause of the breakdown in parent-teenager relations today, according to a phone call with my mum earlier this morning.
However, as Hancock and company discovered, not only is this opinion untrue, the emotions presented in virtual conversations are just as contagious at times as real world interaction.
The experiment involved 44 pairs of volunteers, who chatted online for 15 to 20 minutes. Hancock asked them to ask questions about one another, including one issue that was bothering them at the time. But here's the hitch: Hancock had one person from each pair watch a harrowing scene from Sophie's Choice. The other person watched a clip of some "small talk."
What the team discovered was that not only did the participants accurately assess their partner's mood, but that those who were paired with someone who had watched Sophie's Choice felt worse off than before the chat. Those participants who watched the car hood scene in Transformers, however, had the irresistible urge to mate following the IM interaction*
*I made this up. [New Scientist]