This blog entry should have been written in just a few hours. But, like so many other Internet users, I fell victim to the vast time suck that is the World Wide Web and… well, at least it’s finished now. Right?
This is not an uncommon problem. For years, people have been claiming that the Internet is changing us in profound ways. The ailments linked to the web run the gamut from impatience and forgetfulness to OCD to depression. And now, a recent Newsweek article with the sensational title “Is the Web Driving Us Mad?” claims that the Internet may be doing serious damage to our sanity.
The piece’s author, Tony Dokoupil, provides readers with some scary numbers: close to half of smartphone users go online before they pull back the covers in the morning. The average person sends or receives close to 400 texts per month and, shockingly, teens today process 3,700 texts in the same time period. The end result may be that the Internet is rewiring our brains — and not for the better.
Dokoupil cites UCLA scientist Gary Small, who has measured differences in the prefrontal cortex of moderate web users and concluded that the brains of Internet addicts look strikingly similar to the brains of people addicted to drugs and alcohol. Concurrently, MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle researched the online habits of people in their teens and 20s and came to the conclusion that our online lives are redefining our connection with other humans. In a recent TED talk, Turkle pointed out how the pervasive use of technology is limiting our ability to have even the simplest of conversations with one another.
Our ongoing obsession with texting, tweeting, and Facebook(ing) has spawned a new illness: Internet Addiction Disorder. But what can — and should — we do? Both Dokoupil and Turkle offer a rather simple solution: Be mindful of your time online and have real conversations with others.
Easier said than…. wait, what was I saying?
For more on the effects of the Internet on your brain, check out these Trove channels: