Too Cyberspaced out to think

We are the new "lost" generation

(June 28/15)

The internet is leading us down a path to superficial thought.

HOW THE INTERNET IS MAKING US STUPID AND JOURNALING CAN HELP


I am waiting for a movie to begin when I hear two women talking on the stairway, surveying the seating and chewing their nails.

“How about the front?” says one.

“Na I don’t think I’m a front person," says the other woman tapping into the pink, sparkled world of her cell phone.

“Middle?”

“Mm?” says the one lost in glittery texting.

“Left?” “Right?” “Back?” This goes on for what seems like an eternity.


As I watch, partly amazed and a smidgen amused, I realize I am witnessing a small, but illustrious, example of the rising trend towards scattered and superficial thinking. We are the new lost generation. Our minds so befuddled and be muddled by our internet/technology habit that our thinking, problem solving and imagining muscles have become severely atrophied. Surfing the net, emailing, texting and even using computer software have all become part of another pleasure addiction to which we have become so reliant that the very scintilla of pressure “to choose independently” sends us rushing for our internet connection.


Why have our minds become cyberspace couch potatoes? According to the experts we seem to have deluded ourselves into thinking that we are increasing our efficiency, but we couldn’t be more wrong. MIT Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin says when we hyper cyber juggle we’re really getting less done because our brains are not wired to multitask.  In the article, “Why the modern world is bad for your brain,” he says switching from one task to another very rapidly increases the production of the stress hormone cortisol that over stimulates the brain and causes mental fog and scrambled thinking. “Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation,” writes Levitin. Worst of all, he adds, multitasking has upped the number of judgement calls, which leaves us too exhausted to make well-thought-out decisions about significant matters.


Already studies are showing that excessive use of the screen-based, two dimensional world is shortening attention spans, reducing personal communication skills and the ability to think abstractly. In her Daily Mail article “Modern technology is changing the way our brains work…” Oxford University Professor/Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield warns of the effects of both drugs and technology on our minds, personalities, behaviours and characteristics—in short our human identities.


Nicholas Carr, a self-confessed internet over user, researched and wrote The Shallows: How the Internet Is Changing the Way We Think because he was worried about his own capacity for concentration and contemplation. Through his research he found that our divided attention makes it difficult for our brains to forge the neural connections that add distinctiveness and depth to our thinking. The result?  Disjointed thinking and weak memories.


Wouldn’t it be nice if these ill effects disappeared after we turned off our computers and cell phones? Unfortunately, says Carr, scientists claim the cellular structure of the human brain adapts all too easily to the tools we use to find, store and share information. “The alterations shape the way we think, even when we’re not using the technology.” As a result our brains become nothing more than signal-processing units, bringing information in and out of consciousness with no deep or creative thought.

Clearly there is no quick fix to this major shift towards less rigorous and more automatic thinking. The net is here to say. We all know the incredible benefits of having the world at our fingertips. Still it appears the more we plug into cyberspace the less focus and decision-making power we have. Worse yet, as growing numbers of young people turn to texting for its hyper immediacy, there is even less need for thoughtful reflection behind communications.


Where do we start to stop this out-of-control train of unthinking? Nobel Prize-winning Neuroscientist Eric Kandel offers a starting point when he is quoted in Carr’s article about the intersection of thought and memory. He says we must pay close attention to a new piece of information to enable us to associate it “meaningfully and systematically with knowledge already well-established in memory.”  In other words we need crystal clear clarity. If we are to call on our unconscious to help with decision making, research by Dutch psychologist Ap Dijksterhuis (noted in Carr’s article) also shows that the problem must be clearly defined first.


As they say about most addictions the first step is awareness. Keeping a journal in as little as 15 minutes a day is proven to improve self-awareness and our decision making acumen. The very practice that has for centuries helped philosophers, scientists, artists and business men take giant innovative leaps in thinking is now being recommended to clients by life, business and creative coaches. The “new wave” in journaling is being used to mitigate our addiction and rejuvenate our brains to become more focused and discerning in our thought processes—a path neuroscientists say is necessary if we are to realize profoundly thoughtful opinions and judgement calls.


The “new wave” in journaling offers a number of techniques to help you improve focus, establish connections between conscious, unconscious and dream data, shed new perspective on situations and people and inspire fresh thinking and ideas. Attendees at a recent Life’s all Write, two-day, Journal to the Self Workshop said honing their journaling skills helped them:

diversify how they store their knowledge;rejuvenate their thinking;discover the value of reflection to their lives and experiences;break out of one dimensional thinking;and gain confidence in their inner wisdom and intuition.


If you or your organization are interested in how journaling can help you develop clarity in thought and decision making processes email Sharon Pearce-McLeay at samcleay10@gmail.com


Note: Okay so I made use of the internet for research, but in my defense, I used my journal to come up with the concept and wrote until the article made sense to me. Here are the sources as accessed June 28/15.


Levitin, Daniel. “Why the modern world is bad for your brain.” the guardian, January 18/15. http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jan/18/modern-world-bad-for-brain-daniel-j-levitin-organized-mind-information-overload

Greenfield, Susan. “Modern technology is changing the way our brains work, says neuroscientist.” The Daily Mail Online, June 25/15 . http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-565207/Modern-technology-changing-way-brains-work-says-neuroscientist.html<

Carr, Nicholas. “How the Internet is making us stupid.” The Telegraph, June 28.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/internet/7967894/How-the-Internet-is-making-us-stupid.html

Carr, Nicholas. “All Can Be Lost: The Risk of Putting Our Knowledge in the Hands of Machines.” The Atlantic, November 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/11/the-great-forgetting/309516/<


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