(This blog was first published in Medium)
I'm worried about how technology is changing us. I regularly use all kinds of digital devices and am wide-eyed and eager as each latest technical advancement becomes available. In my journalistic prime, I raced to Consumer Electronics Shows like a chocoholic to a fudge factory. But I'm concerned that computers, smartphones and IOTs are rewiring our brains and influencing our minds in ways that are incomprehensible. Are we losing our inborn abilities to think and discern? Is it affecting our organic process and changing how our brains function?
Reliance on digital devices is producing strange changes in personal communication skills. It’s affecting creativeness and the ability to concentrate or think abstractly. A Microsoft study researched brain activity using electroencephalograms to denote the common human attention span. The results showed the average span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 (when mobile devices were introduced) to eight seconds which is less than that of a goldfish. (Okay, I haven't a clue as to how one tests awareness in a fish!). But the fact is that psychologists and brain scientists are clear about how constant interruptions are changing your ability to stay focused or think deeply. Relentlessly plugged in, you’re immersed in a continual state of disturbances and the inundation is changing how your brain works.
According to another study, by-products of energy-sapping social media time may contribute to sadness, social detachment, reduced self-esteem, anxiety and depression. More and more evidence shows that constant use of social media is not good for mental health and affecting children as well as adults of all ages.
Memory is another casualty. You're unable to be attentive long enough to process and store information into long-term memory. Scientist Andi Horvath notes: “We are in an era where we have outsourced our memory to Google, GPS, calendar alerts and calculators.” Not surprisingly, one study emphasizes that millennials are even more absent-minded than seniors. At the office, performance is also affected. When employees look at social media during their work hours, productivity wanes.
Even electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are recognized as harmful. Are you aware that you're exposed to daily doses from your digital devices, WIFI, power lines and even home appliances? Recent scientific studies show a direct link between cell phone usage and brain tumors. You're most defenseless when at rest so if you sleep next to cell phones or smart watches or in the same room as a WIFI hub, you're likely endangering your health.
Furthermore, when electronic devices are used at night, they wreak havoc on natural circadian rhythms. Artificial brightness of the screens' blue light signals the brain that it’s still daytime and inhibits the release of melatonin (a hormone needed to promote sleep). Lack of sleep causes fatigue, confusion, poor decision-making and increases potential for obesity, diabetes and other conditions. Sleep deprivation also sets you up to be more vulnerable to mind games.
These observations and findings raise many questions. Will we continue to ignore all the online and digital corruption and manipulation? Will our bodies (and brains) adapt? Is this part of our biological evolution as we develop a new cellular makeup? Are we becoming more like artificial intelligence robots? I don't have answers but I'm a keen witness of human behavior and closely watching the public platforms and scientific evidence with rapt attention.