It’s bad. I knew it was bad when I went up to Canada a couple weeks ago and actually felt my mood negatively affected by not having a phone (my beloved Droid Incredible) to text with. My addiction to technology, partly due to necessity, but mostly due to a love for it, leaves me fiending for a hit of the digital goods whenever I’m disconnected.
I wanted to know if there could be more than just a mental aspect to my little problem so I started doing some reading. I found this in a great piece on the New York Times about a family man whose digital addiction has a taken a serious toll on him and his home life.
“The stimulation [of a burst of information, like a text or email] provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.”
Turns out, you can actually be addicted to the constant stream of media so many of us guzzle daily. It can get really serious too, causing stress on your brain that reduces your ability to be creative, focus on a deep level, and complete tasks.
“…scientists are discovering that even after the multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist.”
If you have an addiction like mine, take some time to turn everything off and just focus on one thing at a time for a day, it’s hard, really hard, but it’s extremely refreshing. I purposely let my phone die this weekend and pre-programmed everything so I could literally not touch a piece of technology that wasn’t playing music or pulling me on a wakeboard for two days.
I can tell you, it was weird at first, I reached for the phone more than a few times, even thought I might have a felt a little vibration, but once I got into the swing of it, it was nice. I wouldn’t want to do it all the time, but I think the occasional digital detox is a healthy thing. The nature of the workplace is changing; Technology makes our lives easier and more convenient, but it’s also knocking down the walls between work time and play time, and as humans we have to unplug once in a while and tell our brains, no, this is an email, text, and work free time.
The fact that I could be doing irreparable damage to my brain on a daily basis is freaky for me to think about, we just don’t know the long-term affects of our lifestyle. If you’re curious about this or want some more detail and tips with dealing with the problem of digital overload and multi-tasking, check out these two articles (1, and 2) and if you can, take a day and fight the urge. Turn off all your gadgets and pour yourself into a singular task. See if you don’t feel a little less scattered.
“We are exposing our brains to an environment and asking them to do things we weren’t necessarily evolved to do,” he said. “We know already there are consequences.”
All quotes from ‘Addicted to Technology and Paying a Price‘ on the New York Times.