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A 2010 New York Times article entitled “Attached To Technology And Paying a Price” explains how, yes, our brains have been changed by technology. And not just our brains, but our habits, our views, our relationships and even our lives. When we, in the 60’s consumed only 4 hours of media, and now consume a staggering 12 hours of media a day (counting media we consume at the same time on its own timer), there has obviously been a radical transformation afoot in our culture. It is difficult to know whether we are driving the technology or the technology is driving us.

In the article, Matt Richtel also debunks the notion that our brains are capable of true multi-tasking–a “finding” that I am rather disturbed to hear, though this isn’t the first time I’ve been exposed to such findings. The reasons I am upset to ‘learn’ it is because it’s something I’ve feared for years now: I’m really not as productive when I’m doing two (or ten) things at once.

My daily habits do involve bouncing between Twitter and Facebook and CNN and CNET and a million other sites and apps, and though I feel I give a good deal of attention to each when it matters, I never find myself able to give anything 100% of my brain. I seem physically incapable of it, in fact, which makes me tend to believe the ‘science’ behind such findings. I even downloaded a Google Chrome extension called “StayFocused” to help me limit my time on “my sites” each day…but I’ve already done my best to disable or limit its power to limit me.

In the article, everyone from Stanford researchers to learned doctors and scientists gets in on the act of speculating whether or not we’re wired for this time of response to stimuli or if it is, indeed, an evolutionary thing: there is definitely no consensus. As one Stanford professor pointed out, he has a near Pavlovian response to hearing the ‘ding’ of the bell indicating a new message in his inbox…and I doubt he is alone in this response. Though for many youth today, it isn’t their inboxes but the vibration or sound that indicates a new text which they cannot ignore. Indeed, I honestly can’t recall seeing any of my adolescent family members or any of the hundreds of my former high school students ignore an incoming text save for those rarest of occasions.

**As an aside, the husband/father depicted in the article who literally seems incapable of putting down his tech-toys, be it for a vacation with family or his own honeymoon is a disturbing commentary on our culture that I hope doesn’t become too widespread, lest the divorce rate climb to 100%…


Comments on: "This Is Your Brain On…Tech?" (3)

  1. HAHAHAHA! Lindsey I loved your little story about the Chrome’s “Stay Focused” feature you downloaded and subsequently limited so you would not be “controlled” by this extension!

    I wrote a very similar post to yours regarding my ultimate “submission” and acknowledgement to the fact that we cannot “truly” stay focused on multiple things at a time and how our habits and life styles, really, are changing according to technology. I am starting to think that technology might be driving us and not the other way around.

    One thing that I am struggling with (not that this is a new thing) is whether this phenomenon of children and ourselves being so dependent and driven by technology is something I should accept as an “evolutionary” thing or whether as an educator I should seriously consider how to prevent this from spreading rampantly (not that it has not already). In the NYT article you quoted in your 3min-presentation essay on Kyrene and its spending on technology, it quotes Cuban who states that “keeping children engaged requires an environment of constant novelty, which cannot be sustained” (Richtel, Sept. 3, 2011). Children are constantly stimulated my technology and it is now just the environment they grow up in and they probably take those constant stimulants (e.g., a “ding” from their phone that a text has arrived, etc.) for granted. So, naturally our classroom curriculums might have to become more stimulating and that just means there is more pressure on teachers to make the material they are teaching even more stimulating, which is already hard enough as it is.

    Geez…I know…! I DON’T KNOW!!! That’s the problem! ahhhh

    • Hah, Maria! Great comments. I don’t know the answer either. I think in a few years when I’m a parent, I’m likely to let my kid use the iPad (or whatever exists at that point) for learning and fun, but I won’t allow the TV under 2 years, for instance. WHY do I make that distinction? Is it just clever marketing on Apple’s part…have certain devices and gadgets become acceptable and others viewed with a negative light? I recently read an article about “screen time” for kids under two and how bad that was for their development (NY Times article, I think) and it focused on TV’s, but there was *no* mention of all the tablets and iPhones and iPads that kids are using…is it just the interactivity or is technology so pervasive, and new tech in particular, that we don’t even question it?

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