Toll of Technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness
- Some experts believe excessive use of the Internet, cell phones and other technologies can cause us to become more impatient, impulsive, forgetful and even more narcissistic.
- We do spend a lot of time with our devices, and some studies have suggested that excessive dependence on cellphones and the Internet is akin to an addiction. Web sites like NetAddiction.com <http://NetAddiction.com/> offer self-assessment tests to determine if technology has become a drug.
- In a study to be published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia subjected 173 college students to tests measuring risk for problematic Internet and gambling behaviors. About 5 percent of the students showed signs of gambling problems, but 10 percent of the students posted scores high enough to put them in the at-risk category for Internet “addiction.”
- Psychologists have become intrigued by a more subtle and insidious effect of our online interactions – it may be that the immediacy of the Internet, the efficiency of the iPhone and the anonymity of the chat room change the core of who we are. (Dr. Aboujaoude, “Virtually You: The Internet and the Fracturing of the Self,” (2011).
- Dr. Aboujaoude also asks whether the vast storage available in e-mail and on the Internet is preventing many of us from letting go, causing us to retain many old and unnecessary memories at the expense of making new ones. Everything is saved these days, he notes, from the meaningless e-mail sent after a work lunch to the angry online exchange with a spouse.
- There is also no easy way to conquer a dependence on technology. Nicholas Carr, author of the new book “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” says that social and family responsibilities, work and other pressures influence our use of technology. “The deeper a technology is woven into the patterns of everyday life, the less choice we have about whether and how we use that technology,” Mr. Carr wrote in a recent blog post on the topic.Some experts suggest simply trying to curtail the amount of time you spend online. Set limits for how often you check e-mail or force yourself to leave your cell phone at home occasionally.
Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price
- Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.
- “The technology is rewiring our brains,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and one of the world’s leading brain scientists. She and other researchers compare the lure of digital stimulation less to that of drugs and alcohol than to food and sex, which are essential but counterproductive in excess.
- Technology use can benefit the brain in some ways, researchers say. Imaging studies show the brains of Internet users become more efficient at finding information. And players of some video games develop better visual acuity.
- More broadly, cellphones and computers have transformed life. They let people escape their cubicles and work anywhere. They shrink distances and handle countless mundane tasks, freeing up time for more exciting pursuits.
- For better or worse, the consumption of media, as varied as e-mail and TV, has exploded. In 2008, people consumed three times as much information each day as they did in 1960. And they are constantly shifting their attention. Computer users at work change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour, new research shows.
- The nonstop interactivity is one of the most significant shifts ever in the human environment, said Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco.
- The lower-brain functions alert humans to danger, like a nearby lion, overriding goals like building a hut. In the modern world, the chime of incoming e-mail can override the goal of writing a business plan or playing catch with the children.
- A study at the University of California, Irvine, found that people interrupted by e-mail reported significantly increased stress compared with those left to focus. Stress hormones have been shown to reduce short-term memory, said Gary Small, a psychiatrist at the University of California, Los Angeles.
- Preliminary research shows some people can more easily juggle multiple information streams. These “supertaskers” represent less than 3 percent of the population, according to scientists at the University of Utah.
- Mr. Nass at Stanford thinks the ultimate risk of heavy technology use is that it diminishes empathy by limiting how much people engage with one another, even in the same room.
More Americans Sense a Downside to an Always Plugged-In Existence
NATIONWIDE POLL RESULTS – Conducted May 6-9, using both land-line phones and cellphones. Interviews were conducted with 855 adults, of whom 726 said they used a personal computer or had a smartphone. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for all adults and 4 percentage points for computer and smartphone users.
- While most Americans say devices like smartphones, cellphones and personal computers have made their lives better and their jobs easier, some say they have been intrusive, increased their levels of stress and made it difficult to concentrate, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll.
- Younger people are particularly affected: almost 30 percent of those under 45 said the use of these devices made it harder to focus, while less than 10 percent of older users agreed.
- People seem to find it hard to shut down after work. Almost 40 percent check work e-mail after hours or on vacation.
- Some people can’t imagine living without their computers. About a third of those polled said they couldn’t, while 65 percent said they either probably or definitely could get along without their PCs. The people who are most computer-dependent tend to be better educated and more affluent.
- While most said the use of devices had no effect on the amount of time they spent with their family, a few were concerned. One in seven married respondents said the use of these devices was causing them to see less of their spouses. And 1 in 10 said they spent less time with their children under 18.
Source: The New York Times