Technology – sure, we can’t live without it, but have you ever given any consideration to the ways technology is affecting our brain? I could get all scientific and say that technology has actually interfered in the evolutionary process and you might think that’s a very strong statement to make, but surely, if something affects the way we develop, then that can only be described as an evolutionary factor. And, there are ways technology is affecting our brain – in some really interesting ways.
1. Physical Changes
One of many ways technology is affecting our brain is that it brings about certain physical changes that affect the shapes of our brains. The technology affects our power of imagination, and with virtual simulation and other technology experienced, it sometimes becomes easy to notice a change in sense of self and human identity. The parts of the brain that control these functions are changing in shape and size.
2. Affecting the Ability to Think Abstractly
Due to the over-stimulation and the immediacy of info, different technologies are restricting our ability to think abstractly. The flip side of this however is that it also helps us to tune out external distractions in a better way, especially when processing information over the Internet or thorough a mobile phone.
3. Affecting Our Ability to Read
Prior to the Internet, it was common to see people visiting libraries and read books as well as longer scholarly articles from newspapers, etc. The mental effects of technology are quite severe, and that's probably the reason why you're in no position to read longer articles, especially if you're a frequent web user. According to some scientists, it is mainly due to the reason that we're now tuned and prepared to take in info superficially without wasting any time to understand constructive arguments and complex plot. The technology affects our brain's ability to maintain its attention on something, and with this reduced attention span, we are actually un-learning how to read. We are becoming “skim readers”!
4. Affecting Developing Brains Negatively
Technology has made it easier to communicate with others, but too much exposure to media, including TV and Internet, affects our brain in a negative way. Youngsters are more at risk, mainly because their minds are not yet developed to process so much of information, especially when it is about practicing self-control and prioritizing things. Did you know that on average we spend 12 hours a day exposed to “media” whereas in the 1960s it was 6 hours.
5. Helping to Process Visual Information
One of the positive ways technology is affecting our brain is that it allows us to process visual information quickly. If you spend more time reading online pages or playing games, you will find yourself in a better position to translate visual symbols and process visual info. It is true that everyone's brain is programmed to process visual information, but the use of different technologies hones your mental abilities to process such type of information in a quick and effective way. It may be a positive effect in many ways, but it definitely affects your brain's ability to think rationally, abstractly, and contextually.
6. Making Us Addictive
While certain technologies are helping us to communicate with others to keep their stress levels in check, too much of something is always bad. Sometimes, being plugged in can turn into a serious addiction, which may also interfere with child rearing, normal conversation, social events, and other daily activities. It means that if you don't make a conscious effort to limit the use of certain technologies, you will actually see these technologies affect your brain and your life, negatively.
7. We’re More Prone to Panic
Another of the ways technology is affecting our brain is that it has made us more impulsive and compelled to respond to data. I’m not sure if panic is the right word, but bear with. There is something almost “primitive” in the way we react to today’s communication technology. When I was younger, I never gave any thought to what messages might have been left on my home answering machine – they could wait until I got home. It is so different today. How many of you feel like you can’t function without your cell or smart phone? There is almost something irrational about how we have to check our phones the second a text alert sounds or scramble to our inbox to check for mail or click onto a Facebook page for what are in the main, meaningless updates. I know I am completely at a loss if I don’t have my computer right in front of me and I’m sure many of you feel empty and weird if you’re not plugged in.
Technology is so imbued in our world that it would be impossible for it not to have an impact on our development and even, evolution. I think the older you are, the more you’ll probably be able to appreciate the ways technology is affecting our brain. If you lived in the pre-Internet/cell phone era you might well have noticed these changes. Would love to know if you agree?