You can listen to the audio of this article while you read. Words in bold are defined in the glossary below.

People log in to Facebook all over the world to see what their friends are up to, to see what strangers are doing, to skim articles on topics such as thirty ways to use rubber bands or heroic hedghogs, and to participate in various pages and groups. There are countless pages on the site devoted to learning English. But simply visiting those pages will not improve your English.

Sure, you might learn a new word or two, but scrolling through post after post of brief content is no way to learn. Learning takes concentration and work, and social media sites are designed to thwart both those activities. When you are exposed to new information while you are distracted, that information will go in one ear and out the other. And it is impossible not to be distracted while on a social media site. The sites were designed to keep you distracted, with variable rewards (notifications that have the same affect on humans as the levers that dispense food in the classic rat experiments from psychology) and multiple things in your line of vision that serve to pull your attention in multiple directions at once.

The phrase fear of missing out is frequently used to describe the thing that keeps people glued to social media. People often describe their urge to spend vast stretches of time on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and whatever else folks are using these days with, “I’m afraid I might miss something.” In reality, those people are missing out on real life while they are staring at their screens.

Learning English or any other language is a process that requires you to focus your attention on one thing at a time. If you are focusing for 20 seconds, then click over to quickly wish your cousin’s best friend a happy birthday, then you are not really focusing. For real learning to take place, you have to cut out the distractions.

Everyone has their own learning styles. You may find it worth it to take some time to think about how you learn best. Personally, I prefer pen and paper, but maybe you learn better with a keyboard, or repeating the new information out loud. Usually, the more methods of reproducing the information you are trying to learn, the better, because it gives your brain multiple representations of the same piece of information. If you are working on your pronunciation, then getting a native speaker to give you feedback can be helpful. Facebook can’t do that.

If you are serious about improving in a second language, then don’t make social media a part of your learning plan. It will only bombard you with information and muddle your attention. If you truly want to work on your English, then make a plan, find a speech trainer, and concentrate on learning the skills you need to improve.

After that, feel free to log in to your favorite social media site and let them hear your ideas.

Glossary

up to: doing, engaged in :: People log in to Facebook all over the world to see what their friends are up to

skim: to read quickly:: … to skim articles…

thwart: to prevent, to cause to fail :: …social media sites are designed to thwart both those activities

in one ear and out the other: to be heard but not attended to, when someone does not pay attention :: …that information will go in one ear and out the other

vast: very large or very wide :: …to spend vast stretches of time…

cut out: eliminate::…you have to cut out the distractions

worth it: worth doing, worth the time/effort::You may find it worth it to take some time to think…

the more [X] the better [Y]: when there is more of X, the result Y will be better :: …the more methods of reproducing the information you are trying to learn, the better

bombard: to attack something or someone by directing a stream of objects at them :: It will only bombard you with information…

muddle: to mix up, to confuse :: …muddle your attention