Our brains on modern technology: The age of distraction
We are witnessing an explosion of digital tools that provide us access to overload of information. We use technology for long hours that make up most of our day for work, entertainment, communication, connecting to people, drawing, composing music, and all kinds of tasks. The impact of the digital revolution on our brains and the way we think is a hot topic, especially for parents and teachers who have a big responsibility towards their children and want to know more about it.
Young people born to this information revolution spend at least 8 hours every day using laptops, smart phones, I pads, etc…text messaging, tweeting and looking for information. They even keep these tools beside them when they sleep. The impact of these tools on young generation is underestimated.
Digital tools exploit a basic human instinct of social or intellectual nourishment. When an email, message, status or tweet arrives, people feel the urge to respond instantly because of the release of the same hormones released under stress. Under the constant influence of this hormone people develop an addiction to apps to an extent a digital diet is strongly needed. When the brain is always on, with no breaks to rest it, attention and concentration are compromised. Is it a coincidence the word “wired’ means both: connected to the internet, and unable to concentrate?
Young generation is continuously listening to music. Both parents and teachers agree that this has created an easily distracted generation with short attention span and very thin memory. When there is no access to a mobile technology, anxiety builds up. One high school student says he ‘feels naked without a cell phone.’
Adults too may suffer the impact of using digital tools for long hours. We lose the ability to concentrate and focus when reading because we get accustomed to scanning through lots of information on the Web.
Distraction and short attention span cause so many accidents. Beside car accidents, the simplest accident is bumping into another person or a piece of furniture. Young generation has developed mindlessness in eating, studying, and shopping as well as in building relationships. Instantaneous devices have an impact on the thought processes, hindering deep thinking and understanding, and getting in the way of the formation of memories. “It makes learning more difficult and results in diminished information retaining ability and fails to connect experiences stored in memory, leaving thoughts thin and scattered,” according to Eric Schmidt, Chief executive of Google.
In many cases new technology makes our lives easier. I can not imagine living without the benefits of wireless communication or the ease of access to information on the Internet. We can not go back to a time without computers and cell phones, so we need to nurture a healthy balance when using technology by making smart decisions on how and how long we use it. This healthy balance is between the digital and the natural. The longer we use technology, the more we need to be in nature. We need to set limits for ourselves and our children, get downtime off computers to increase the ability to process information, sharpen memory, develop cognitive abilities, and reduce stress.
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