[S]tudents are losing the ability to study properly. Constant use of the internet has rewired their brains to function differently from those of earlier generations: they skip from topic to topic in an “associative” mode of thinking, and are less capable of the linear thought required for skills like reading and writing at length. Some have even warned that the result could be greater rates of mental illness.
…It’s a cliché that information is not knowledge, but there is much truth in that idea. Understanding requires the ability to relate one subject to something else – to place something in context. If, because of your development in childhood, you lack that contextual framework, then you can only take it at face value and move on. What you see is indeed what you get. You download information, but you cannot necessarily understand it.
Sound familiar? How many blog posts do you read every day? Every hour? How many tweets? How many Facebook wall posts? How many videos do you watch on YouTube, songs listened on iTunes, pictures viewed on Flickr? How many of these social media channels are you visiting and participating over the course of five minutes?
What percentage of the content you are capturing and reading and watching online all day are you retaining when you awake the next morning?
It goes beyond the web. Think of your daily routine. Think about your private time in the shower. If you massage your shampooed hair with one hand and rub your soaped body with another hand, while singing along to some Karaoke song you just made up, can you do it? Can you use both of your hands on different parts of your body simultaneous to singing in the shower? I bet not.
If I strike a chord, here’s a newsflash for you: Multitasking — whether online or off — is a farce. Despite what every employer and job description thinks you are expected to do, multitasking won’t get you ahead. Defending your ability talk on the phone to a client while playing Tetris and instant messaging your friends is a promise waiting to be broken. Your brain is not wired to perform multiple tasks at the same time. It’s humanly impossible.
Reading this sentence while listening to music in the background is doable, but when you introduce your toddler’s crying in the background, your brain goes fuzzy.
French scientists Sylvain Charron and Etienne Koechlin discovered our brains are weaker than we think.
They conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment and proved that we are unable to divide our attention to more than two tasks at any given moment. Blame your frontopolar cortex for being incapable of multitasking.
Joshua Becker appreciates the finer things in life. Cell phone texting kills us, he opines, and he doesn’t refer to motor vehicle deaths of teens texting while driving. No. Josh writes about the benefit of single tasking, specifically around experiencing life without a 24/7 tether to your mobile device.
We habitually carry our mobile device from room to room in our homes, pull it out while conversing with friends, and refuse to walk anywhere without it. Talk about guilt by association.
Comment after comment, people write why they agree with Josh and share anecdotes. I like Michael Michalowski‘s comment the best:
I shut my phone for about a week now and feel much more free than before. I don’t really know why, but everytime there was a “gap” between two tasks, instead of relaxing or doing nothing and embracing the present moment, I grabbed my phone and texted someone. It is really an attention grabber, removing your focus from the present.
Your conversations become more meaningless, less special. You talk about anything unimportant and sometimes feel even annoyed by getting a message in the wrong moment. That’s not how I want to communicate with my friends.
It felt great to shut the phone off, but I will turn it on soon again. At least I think so. I just realized that I could leave it more often alone than before. This improves the joy of my life enormously.
Here’s a thought:
Remove the cell phone and remove the framework of social media channels. You don’t have to cease using everything; but be mindful of your actions. Moderate your reasons for doing what you do online. Rationalize that you can only conduct one or two tasks at the same time, never more. When you’re ready to minimize your life, click the reboot button and live your life the way you were meant to live it. Ready?
Granted, if you disagree with the above, don’t reboot your life but do share your thoughts.