By Susan Grotenhuis, Brain Fitness Facilitator at Asbury Methodist Village
What do Finland and North Carolina have in common? They are both pitching the appeal of silence. Finlandâs board of tourism is promoting the phrase Silence Please as one of its ad campaigns, and in North Carolina you can slip into a silent retreat amid the Blue Ridge Mountains and get in touch with the inner self.
The lure of quieting the soul comes at a time when more and more we are tipping our heads to look at a smartphone or tablet. At a ballgame, riding the subway or sitting in a restaurant, small screens abound. We are constantly dividing our attention between reality and cyberspace while multitasking our way through life. How is this evolving lifestyle affecting our brains and what role does technology play?
The younger generation is clearly addicted. In late 2010, a global project took place asking students to ditch their devices for 24 hours. Students from 12 universities in 10 different countries participated in ‘the world UNPLUGGED‘ and reported their responses. One United Kingdom student described his experience this way:
‘I was edgy and irritated for most of the day–I tried to preoccupy myself with written work and a trip into town, but all I wanted to do was pick up my phone and become a part of the human race again.’
Multiple studies reveal similar results where anxiety, depression and insecurity are common among young people trying to do without media. In fact, many accept Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) as an emerging syndrome and media psychology as a new science, both born out of our obsession with technology.
Not only are kids feeling lost without the electronic extensions of themselves, but their brains are suffering as a consequence. According to a 2009 study by Stanford University, young multitaskers failed at several cognitive assessments. Their focus was poor, their memories less efficient and, believe it or not, their multitasking was terrible. The constant connection bombards the brain with information and results in the inability to filter out what is important or valuable and what is not. Everything becomes relevant. It is more than the brain can handle.