Spending tons of time on social networking sites? Follow these simple steps and use your time online to boost your brain.
Step 1: Supersize it Build as broad a social network as you can to help stave off the effects of Alzheimer's; a study has indicated that people who actively engage with a large group of friends are more likely to retain cognitive function as they age.
TIP: Playing online puzzles and strategy games may also help stave off dementia.
Step 2: Learn a language Befriend people from foreign countries and join groups that use another language to communicate. Immersing yourself in a foreign language can help your brain become flexible and develop fluency.
Step 3: Form associations Check out activity streams on your friends' profiles and observe how their behavior transitions over time; making associations between past, present, and future actions develops your working memory, according to one researcher.
Step 4: Break away Take breaks to log on to social networking sites during work and become a more productive employee; researchers have found that giving your brain a chance to reset allows you to tackle your next project with gusto.
TIP: Make sure any content you look at is workplace appropriate.
Step 5: Adapt and conquer Keep up with updates to your current social networks and learn to use new technology as it's released; adapting to changes in interactive media increases function in areas of the brain that affect decision making and short-term memory.
Step 6: Pimp out your profiles Customize your profiles frequently to test your creative limits and teach your brain to adjust to and control situations. For an even bigger challenge, build your own social-networking site to give your fellow social media users a new opportunity to charge their brains.
FACT: Between December 2008 and December 2009, global social network usage increased by 82 percent.