Archive for December, 2010

Hooked on Gadgets — And Paying A Mental Price

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Scientists say that juggling e-mail, phone calls, instant messages, text messages and other incoming information can change how people think and behave.

They’re saying that our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information and the potential addictions it creates mentally.

People have a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats and this constant barrage of stimulation from our gadgets and connectivity can provoke that response. This triggers a dopamine squirt, giving pleasure, and this is what can become addicting to many people and the lack of which can create a feeling akin to boredom.

A guy by the name of Kord Campbell is an example of this in action. A few years ago, inundated daily with email, instant messages, and more online, he missed an email that was the most important of his life. A firm was offering to purchase his Internet startup. Twelve days later, the email finally caught his attention and he made apologetic responses to the suitor who ultimately purchased his company.

He missed the email while responding to many that were, by contrast, basically irrelevant to his business and even personal life. Even after turning off the gadgets and sitting down for family time, he often craves them and continues to think about what he might be missing. His wife complains that this makes him “no longer able to be fully in the moment.”

Campbell is not alone and scientists have found that while the much-publicized deadly consequences of this constant interaction (car wrecks from cell phone use and texting) are noted, few know about the non-lethal threats this barrage creates. Creativity, deep thought, and constant interruptions to family life and productivity are creating rifts in relationships and losses in revenue for many.

Even when the affected person sets aside the gadgets and enters “real life” to spend time with family or friends, the fractured thinking and lack of focus persists.

Scientists say that while the healthy brain craves stimulation, it’s akin to how our stomachs crave food. We need some, but too much is actually detrimental.