Without a doubt I believe the world has benefited from technology. Every year our planet becomes exponentially faster, smarter, and more connected than the year before. But is all this technology starting to affect the way we think? Research suggests that the answer to that question is both yes and no (of course).
“At one time a screen meant maybe something in your living room. But now it’s something in your pocket so it goes everywhere — it can be behind the wheel, it can be at the dinner table, it can be in the bathroom. We see it everywhere today.” – Matt Richtel
In Richtel’s article, Digital Overload: Your Brain On Gadgets, the New York Times journalist discusses how technology has impacted our minds and just how strong a hold that little screen in your pocket has on your mind. Richtel’s research involved taking a group of neuroscientists on a week long retreat to a remote corner of Utah in order to observe their thoughts and perspectives on technology as they ventured off the grid. The result? Only after three days of being free from technology the scientists admitted to feeling more relaxed, getting better sleep, having more patience, and even felling less anxious. According to research at the University of California-San Diego, “the average person today consumes almost three times as much information as what the typical person consumed in 1960.” With such a large boom in technology it comes as no surprise that our brains have adapted to the way of the new world. But is it for the better?
“When you check your information, when you get a buzz in your pocket, when you get a ring — you get what they call a dopamine squirt. You get a little rush of adrenaline. Well, guess what happens in its absence? You feel bored. You’re conditioned by a neurological response: ‘Check me check me check me check me.” – Matt Richtel
On the contrary, Don Tapscott, author of the book, Grown Up Digital, also discusses how digital technology has changed the brain; only this time it’s for the better. Florida State University student, Joe O’Shea, admits to the fact that he prefers not to read books to gather information. Something unheard of in an Oxford student with a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. O’Shea explains, “it’s not a good use of my time, as I can get all the information I need faster through the Web.” Tapscott viewed this statement with a critical eye as he realized that “the digital world provides new ways to learn that can potentially make [the] Net Generation the smartest ever.” Research suggests that what Tapscott calls the, “Net Generation,” has adapted to a new form of learning and thinking. The Net Generation does not “necessarily read from left to right, or from beginning to end. They’re more sensitive to visual icons than older people are, and they absorb more information when it’s presented with visual images than when it’s offered in straight text. This may help them be better scanners, a useful skill when you’re confronted with masses of online information.”
So, has technology ruined our way of thinking? I would have to say technology has certainly changed the way we think, however, I don’t think it’s ruined it. I feel that it’s our responsibility to take a break from technology every once in a while in order to keep some balance in our lives. I’ve always been a fan of moderation so if taking a break from technology will help me maintain a sound body and mind then I see no harm in stepping off the grid for a while.