The unintended consequences of technology on our brains


This is a strange post for a blog that promotes broadband and technology, but I ran into an article in the Huffington Post that did all of the research that I’d like to do on the impact of technology on our brains and skills and who we are – 8 Ways Technology Makes You Stupid. OK they did half the research I’d like to do because I know there are some positive impacts of technology as well.

Here’s their list in a nutshell:

  1. Tech is screwing up your sleep
  2. You’re easily distracted
  3. You can’t remember much
  4. So you’re relying on the Internet to remember things for you
  5. And you’re much more forgetful than you used to be
  6. You can’t concentrate on what you’re reading
  7. You can’t find your way around without GPS
  8. You have the brain of a drug addict

I hate to admit that I’ve seen these qualities in myself and/or in my kids in the last week. Just last night I took a phone away from a kid and I was a little afraid of a total withdrawal meltdown. To be fair my sense of direction while driving was never very good – but it’s not getting better with my reliance on GPS, although I do get places faster and more directly. I am heartened to hear that my poor memory is technology – not age – related!

The question for me becomes how can I curb impact of technology on myself and my kids. The article offers a suggestion…

Now that you’re properly terrified of the effects of technology on the old noggin, let us remind you that you do have the power to prevent brain drain and time-suck. Just log off every once in a while!

It seems simple enough – and there’s a reason I’m posting this on a Sunday. It’s a good day to practice logging off. But I think I’m also going to strive to be more diligent daily. I can start in simple ways – no phones, ipods, ipads, laptops after bedtime. No technology during meals. No texting to people in the house – and texting will not be replaced by shouting. We don’t live in a mansion – find the person (usually me) you need and talk to them (usually ask for money). No headphones on car trips less than 20 minutes. Long drives it’s all about distraction but short trips can be a great time to catch up with the people in front of you. And maybe instead of Tweeting all day – you could try to use those clever quips to engage the people in your presence.

I’m as guilty as the kids – really the first step is classic addiction management – recognizing there’s a problem and cultivating a desire to fix it. The added difficulty is that addiction to technology is more like an addiction to food than alcohol or drugs because for most of us going cold turkey isn’t a solution or even a goal – we just need to be healthier in our choices and use. I bet there’s an app for that!