4 Ways Technology Impacts the Way We Think
Technology is a part of our daily lives more than ever before, but with the right mindset, the positives can far outweigh the negatives.
The pervasiveness of technology in our everyday lives means we don’t ever slow down to think about what’s really happening. Instead of communicating with people in a face-to-face manner, we’re constantly staring at tablets, typing away on touchscreen keyboards, and gluing smartphones to our ears.
While there are certainly positives that come with new technology, what’s the psychological impact of our affinity for technology?
1. Technology Impedes Our Focus
If you’ve ever tried to have a conversation with your spouse while they’re watching something on TV, you realize just how much technology impedes our ability to focus on other things. It’s as if nothing outside of the technologies we channel our focus into exist. In certain situations this can be amusing, but in other situations it’s downright scary.
Consider the fact that talking on a mobile phone while driving reduces brain activity associated with driving by as much as 37 percent. In other words, when you’re talking on the phone while driving down the highway, your brain is only operating at 63 percent of the normal capacity. That’s a sobering thought.
2. Technology Changes How We Read
Have you ever caught yourself scanning through the pages of a book, as opposed to reading the words line by line? If so, you aren’t alone. The internet has actually changed the way we, as a society, read. Instead of consuming content in a linear fashion like the generations before us, we now scan for keywords, search for links, and grab small bits of information.
“When you try to read a novel, it’s almost like we’re not built to read them anymore, as bad as that sounds,” says Brandon Ambrose, a 31-year-old financial analyst and avid reader. This is a direct result of our brains adapting to new content formats.
3. Technology Prompts FOMO
Do you suffer from FOMO? That sounds a little bit like the introductory line to a pharmaceutical drug commercial, doesn’t it? Well, thanks to the proliferation and pervasiveness of social media in our everyday lives, FOMO has become a very real psychological issue.
In case you aren’t familiar with the term, FOMO is the acronym for “Fear of Missing Out.” It’s a complicated blend of anxiety, irritation, and inadequacy. It typically happens when you’re doing something boring or ordinary and you see pictures, videos, and posts from your friends who appear to be doing things that are more fun and exciting. Naturally, you feel like you’re missing out on something.
4. Technology Removes Us from Moments
Next time you’re at a concert, event, or tourist attraction, conduct a little experiment. Look around you and count the number of people who have their phones, cameras, and tablets out snapping pictures and recording videos. Can you even count them all? Next, try to count the people who are fully engaged, with no electronics in hand. Can you find any?
This issue is directly tied to FOMO. In a digital age where our lives are broadcasted for everyone to see, we want to make sure everyone knows where we are and what we’re doing. As a result, we spend more time projecting an image than enjoying experiences.
Searching for the Positives
“Despite all the very real concerns, mobile technology can be harnessed to improve our minds,” says Adam Gazzaley, M.D., Ph.D. “There are ongoing efforts by cognitive science laboratories and companies to develop cognitive assessment and brain training software that will function on mobile phones and tablets. This field is still in its infancy, but early signs are encouraging.”
While it’s easy to identify the negatives and proclaim the deficiencies of modern technology, we have to remember that positives abound. Right now, it’s just a matter of protecting our brains and finding ways to offset the negatives before they become even more pervasive.
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