Nowhere fast

Monday’s New York Times features a series of articles on the theme “Your Brain on Computers”:

Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price, by Matt Richtel

An Ugly Toll of Technology – Impatience and Forgetfulness, by Tara Parker Pope

More Americans Sense a Downside to an Always Plugged-In Existence, by Marjorie Connelly

Maybe we’re ready to stop and think.

UPDATE: As part of this series, the Times is also looking for volunteers who would be willing to “unplug temporarily and tell us about their experience.”

8 thoughts on “Nowhere fast

  1. ashasekh

    I just ordered The Shallows, though I fear it may be preaching to the converted, to a great extent.

    I find it amusing that the NYT is asking for volunteers to unplug; what about all of us who use tech in moderation, and don’t have the addiction in the first place? Is that not newsworthy in itself?

    Perhaps an analogy: I can smoke cigarettes for, say, a month, then quit cold turkey and have zero withdrawal or cravings until a year or more later when I pick up another cigarette. (Basically I only smoke with friends over drinks when I am on a different continent than my husband, who won’t put up with it). Rather than focus on the patients with serious addictions, the study should be on those who can/do resist the addiction.

    Back to the whole internet addiction thing: it seems like such a self-reflexive story, one that makes itself–and so that’s what the media latch on to. yet it is a false picture, to a degree. The real story, I think, is the many people who don’t consume, therefore don’t attract the attention of the newshounds.

  2. Seth Finkelstein

    Yes, this – “unplug temporarily and tell us about their experience.” – is a procedure designed to produce a breezy story. Not the least of which is the aspect that if the subjects don’t tell the reporter something which makes for good copy, they won’t get mentioned.

    But I’m sure I’ll have to design my own survey before I’m allowed to doubt the results :-(.

  3. Labadarianfan

    Seth, journalism isn’t science, it’s more public service. Just be glad The New York Times are bringing awareness to this issue. Leave the scientific surveys to the research institutions.


    I’m looking forward to reading the book, and I’m enjoying reading the coverage of its release.

    I wonder if you get into the issue of coffee at all? I can tell you first-hand, the tech industry is, on any given day, WAY over-caffeinated.

    While I love coffee, I feel like it creates a manic, induced state of ADD. I imagine that coffee aggravates this distracted, hyper multi-tasking that we do constantly online.

  5. Friarminor

    Struggling even to share a post as I keep scrolling up and down this article and the comments.

    On the other hand, it forces me to create ‘insight’ as a result of the conversation I am having with myself struggling to write.

    No need to sign myself up. Will do experiment myself and tilt waking hours favorable ratio from online to offline. Hope they don’t fire me, though.

  6. shanen

    I prefer to look at it as a different style of thinking, and in spite of the arrival of this Internet age, I’m still reading 100 books a year. (I even keep a searchable version of my list of books online so that I can consult it from libraries or bookstores.) My view is that the Internet is sort of like a new lobe of my brain where a lot of the trivial details can be found as needed. I don’t need to remember as many details, but I do need to remember the kinds of data that was important and how to find it again when that level of detail is needed.

    As a concrete example, I actually came to this website after finding a related article. Along the way, I checked a the local library (via the Internet) to see which of his books are available there (in English), and now I’m considering whether or not I might want to buy this new one… However, I’d buy it at a bookstore–I won’t shop with Amazon.

  7. Psimon88

    I read this with interest:

    Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price, by Matt Richtel

    I’m eagerly awaiting my copy. I’m a big fan of books that ask critical questions of just what all of this technology is doing to us–and not just the good. Hit me with the bad and ugly as well.

  8. martyn strong

    I think the problem is not change in the brain but a favoring of the left or right brain.

    The right brain is the older type of brain – set up to get one through the woods with out bumping into things and set up to note details around you. This is the side that some types of video and the web turns on.

    The left side of the brain is the newer area (the left and right both did the same stuff some time ago – prehuman). The left side is the tool making side and has language and other higher level stuff.

    I think the brain will switch to the left or right depending on past activity. That is if you do a lot of walking in the woods the right side of the brain will tend to turn on. Where as if you do a lot of tool making, talking, or things that involve going through a list of activities the left side of the brain will tend to turn on.

    The self test I have done involved watching a set of 5 movies on large screen in six days. For several weeks after I would forget items in my car, and have other brain problems. I was tending to use my right brain. I think the cuts, pans and zooms in the movies cause the brains to think that there is a lot of activity around (as if you were walking in the woods). The brain therefore shifts into a more right brain mode for a time. Other problems I hear about caused by to much video is walking into a room and forgetting why you went into the room and forgetting where you parked your car. When you walk into a room with the right brain active you left brain with the list of things to do gets put on the back burner. Also, as you leave the car in a parking lot with your right brain in charge your to not do and re-thinking of the cars location as you leave therefore you do not remember the location when you come out to look for the car.

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