When people think of what kind of activities can be harmful to their health, behavior, or ability to think properly, they probably don’t think of their time on their laptop computer or their love for their iPad. However, many scientists worry that the bursts of information that we get from devices like cell phones and computers are hurting our ability to focus properly.
The idea is that the stimulation that we get from new information (say, an e-mail or a tweet) provides a momentary burst of excitement and dopamine that can become addictive. Then, when we are not glued to a technological device, we may feel bored when we really shouldn’t be.
Multitasking has also come under fire in recent years. While we all like to think that we are more efficient when multitasking, employers who have seen productivity dip while employees are checking Facebook or using their phones would likely say otherwise. Scientists say that multitasking can lead to increased stress and a lack of focus.
Use of technology
Sure, no one would argue that technology is completely bad. Many people use the internet to learn new things or find information quickly, which is a valuable skill. However, devices like cellphones and laptop computers have also been a mixed blessing in that they allow us to “connect” anywhere and do work tasks, check e-mails, and so on.
Many people are not aware of just how much media we are consuming through our computers, televisions, phones and other devices. As of a few years ago, a study showed that the average person consumed three times the amount of information in a day as a typical person would have fifty years ago.
Does technology really affect us?
So how does all of this affect us? Well, first let’s talk about how the brain works. A decade or so ago, many scientists thought that the human brain stopped developing early into our lives, but now we know that our brains develop throughout our lives, especially if we actively use them.
More specifically, can we learn to improve our multitasking with all of these new devices that we use? Scientists are skeptical, as studies have shown that people who often multitask through technology can actually become worse at filtering out irrelevant information than people who do not multitask on their computers or devices. Because multitaskers are doing so many things at once, they have a hard time shutting that mode off and focusing on one thing, since they are attracted constantly to new, incoming information.
When you look at how humans have evolved, you can start to see how technology can be programmed to tap into ancient human instincts. For instance, even when we are focused on an activity we are interested in, a portion of our brain is ready to alarm us to threats or important events. This helped us when we were hunters and gatherers that needed to be alert to animal attacks or other possible dangers.
These days, that same part of us can cause us to easily be destructed by phone alerts, e-mail prompts and other technological interruptions that can take our attention away from our families, hobbies or responsibilities.
Technology’s effects on our lives
We should not ignore the positive effects of our increased reliance on technology, of course. Studies have shown that those who use the internet often display greater brain activity. This makes sense because activities that stimulate your brain lead to neural growth, and many people use the internet to learn. Furthermore, those who play certain types of video games can help people to track objects, improve reflexes, and help gamers to quickly pick out essential information.
As you can see, then, it is hard to simply say that technology is wholly good or completely bad for our brains. There are benefits that fall on each side, after all. It is safe to say, however, that just as with many other things in life, moderation is the key. If you are shutting out your friends and family for the sake of technology or you have become overly dependent on it, you may need to ease off a bit. However, technology has also made so many tasks easier that it is impossible to simply say that we should ignore it completely.
|The information presented is not intended to, and does not in anyway, constitute or replace a medical advice, and it should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem. The information is provided for educational purposes only, and is based upon the authors’ personal experiences or point of view. If you think you have a health problem, please consult a qualified medical professional..|