How the Internet Is Changing Your Brain?
At the time of its founding in 1998, Google handled 10,000 search requests daily. It currently handles more than 40,000 search queries per second on average. That translates to 3.5 billion searches daily. Additionally, such figures do not account for all the searches that users conduct on other search engines.
There is no denying that the internet has altered our society by providing rapid access to one another and a vast amount of knowledge. But how has it affected each of us personally? More precisely, has daily internet use altered our brains?
The brain is an amazing and intricate organ. You have about 100 billion brain cells when you first came into the world. These neurons in the brain communicate with one another via pathways. There are many ways, including repeated exposure to something, that you might enhance those neural connections between brain cells over time.
The brain’s capacity to link neurons is sometimes referred to as the brain’s ability to “wire itself.” Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to reorganize itself after brain damage; this rewiring continues into old age.
The internet offers sensations that are exposed repeatedly and intensely. Additionally, it offers satisfying benefits on occasion, just enough to keep users coming back for more and support the notion that the internet might become addictive.
One of the first research teams to demonstrate the effects of internet use on the brain was Gary Small’s team in 2008. In one study, participants were divided into two groups: computer-savvy individuals, who had experience using the internet, and computer-naive subjects, who had never used the internet. The researchers observed the participants’ brain activity while they conducted internet searches using functional MRI scans.
The scans revealed that the two groups used various brain pathways for their internet searches. The computer-illiterate participants were given one hour per day to practice using the internet before the MRI scans were performed again six days later. The striking thing about this study was that the same brain circuits were activated in both groups after just five days of practice. After just five hours on the internet, the computer-illiterate group’s brains had undergone significant rewiring.
On the one hand, this is fantastic information. It demonstrates that the brain can continue to remodel itself as we age. Additionally, those who have suffered from brain injuries can rejoice. With frequent, sustained exposure to stimuli, the brain can repair. Does this rewiring, though, raise any issues?
According to Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, the internet is a significant departure from traditional media in many aspects. Although there are many distractions in our lives now, there has never been a media like the internet that can so broadly and persistently divert our attention. Carr notes that in addition to altering our attention, the internet is also affecting our capacity for in-depth thought, sustained concentration on a single task, and the formation of new memories.
The mind that is calm, concentrated, undistracted, and capable of thinking linearly appears to be evolving into a mind that desires and requires the ability to process information in brief, fragmented, and frequently overlapping bursts. We are not only more distracted, but the distractions also make it harder for us to process new information, which has an influence on our memory.
Small’s research suggests that the high-tech revolution has put us in a constant condition of half attention. We monitor everything, but we never give anything our whole attention. Distinct from multitasking is continuous partial attention. When we multitask, each task has a specific goal. When we consistently only partially attend, we could put our brains under more stress than usual. We no longer spend the time necessary to deliberate. That’s the exact mentality that causes us to send a careless SMS or make a hasty internet buy.
Fortunately, if you approach it correctly, you may benefit from the internet without adding unneeded stress to your life or mind. Here are some pointers for creating a secure internet connection:
Engage in daily tasks that improve your focus and critical thinking skills.
Spend some time every day working on one project without interruption. This could involve doing something like reading a few chapters of a book, playing an instrument, or working on a project. You might be shocked by how quickly the need to check your phone or go back to the internet arises. Avoid the temptation and finish the project before turning to your screen. Reading and reflecting on an article is another approach to enhancing your critical thinking abilities. Consider the questions you have regarding what you just read.
Going back to nature
Researchers from the Universities of Kansas and Utah have found that spending time outside and away from electronics can boost creativity. In a study, individuals were divided into two groups, one of which went on a backpacking trip and the other which did not. After the trip, they were all given a 10-item exam measuring inventiveness. More questions about creativity were accurately answered by the group that had gone trekking for days than by the group that had not. Spending time in outdoors also offers chances to exercise, which is another natural way to rewire the brain.
Create areas free from technology.
Consider the moments in your schedule or the areas of your surroundings where you can fully avoid technology. You might choose to turn off all of your technology during dinner or designate your home’s bedrooms as “technology free.” Find a time and place in your environment where you won’t be distracted by the internet, wherever it is and whenever it is.
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