With technology constantly improving, it’s no surprise that the average adult in the UK now spends more time online each day than sleeping.
In this article you will learn:
- Why the internet and social media are addictive
- The physical effects to your brain of always being online
- The importance of switching off from time to time
Take a look at any commuter train or bus on an average day and you’ll find most people with their heads buried in their smartphone or tablet. Those people will then go into an office, where they’ll spend most of the day staring at a computer with emails bombarding them. At the end of the day, they’ll commute home with their heads buried once again in their smartphone to spend the evening staring at a screen.
It’s not hard to see that this behaviour isn’t the healthiest. And most people would agree that it’s best to switch off from technology once in a while. But why is that so important?
The term internet addiction was coined in a satirical essay years ago but it’s a condition that is starting to be taken more seriously by scientists and has now attracted attention in numerous studies.
“There's definitely an addictive component to it in your brain because the internet does generate a fair amount of dopamine, which is what a heroin addict - or any drug addict – gets when they use, and it lights up your pleasure centres,” research psychologist Max Blumberg explains. “Your brain has to deal with more and more dopamine and it can actually become quite dependent on it for the rush, which is why people find it really hard to come off drugs, or disconnect from social media.”
“Our brains were never designed to be always on and permanently connected with the amount of stimuli that we get from social media, gaming, constant news updates,” Blumberg says. “And our brains haven't evolved to handle that level of high activity yet.”
The problem with this is that it causes a similar effect to having ADHD, according to Blumberg. In people with ADHD, the cortex (the part of the brain that makes decisions) doesn’t function in the way it is supposed to. He explains: “Your brain starts losing the ability to say what's important and what's not important when you have constant stimuli coming in so you lose the ability to prioritise to some extent. In order to prioritise you have to be not connected sometimes.”
The ultimate effect of all this, according to Blumberg, is that it impacts an individual’s ability to achieve. He predicts that people will become very reactive and unable to perform deep thinking.
“To build a really cool company, like Virgin for example, Richard Branson needed a lot of deep thinking and a lot of focus,” he explains, “which he couldn't have got if he had been always connected. So he was able to do that because he was able to concentrate, turn away stimuli and spend tons of time developing his goal. People will find it harder and harder to create Virgin in the future.”
Ultimately, Blumberg predicts: “The ones who know the importance of disconnecting will end up being the bosses of those who are always online.”