The Internet is rewiring your brain!

I’ve been complaining lately that the frequent interruptions in our daily lives have reduced our ability to focus. I stumbled across an article on the topic in the August 10 issue of this new, rather bizarre newsmagazine called “The Week.” It states…

Research shows that our constant use of these devices is actually rewiring the physical structure of people’s brains. Every time your phone, tablet, or computer pings with the new text, tweet, or e-mail, it triggers a sense of expectation, and the reward centers in your brain receive a pleasurable “squirt of dopamine.”

I can definitely relate to that. I know I check my e-mail much more often than is really necessary. And, for those 30 seconds or so during which I’m waiting for my new e-mails to appear, I have an almost gambler’s like sense of expectation. (“Is it gonna come up triple sevens?” “Am I finally getting an e-mail from Scarlett Johansson saying she saw my Facebook profile is so attracted to me that she’s willing to submit herself to me sexually for the next five years?”)

I used to have a similar sense of anticipation about blogs. I’d be working and have the sense that I really had to see what Andrew Sullivan had said over the course of the past two hours. It’s stupid, of course; I could just wait till the end of the day. (And, indeed, that’s what I’ve learned to do. Sometimes I go days without checking blogs.) But I would have this nagging sense of anticipation. And that is exactly what dopamine is.

The article continues…

Over time, a brain habituated to these quick fixes shrinks the structures used for concentration, empathy, and impulse control, while growing new neurons receptive to speedy processing and instant gratification. Brain scans of Internet addicts… can resemble those of cocaine addicts and alcoholics.

Right there you have a physiological description of what I’m arguing has been changing in the human brain over the course of centuries. A composer such as Bach, who could sit there and create ornamental and very structured pieces of music, probably had pretty rich structures for concentration and impulse control. He wasn’t checking his twitter feed every 20 minutes.

  1. No Comments