I will begin this post, which is of a slightly different genre than usual, with pointing out the stark irony of sitting at my computer on a beautiful Saturday morning blogging about how the overuse of computers and internet affects our brain chemistry. So with that stated and understood, here goes! And I will be going to the beach later, sans computer! Maybe I'll be crazy and leave my phone at home, too...
Over the last month, I have been reading a fantastic (yet scary) book entitled What The Internet is Doing to Our Brains: The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr. While it may seem strange that I am talking about this subject on my nutrition and fitness blog, remember that life is all about balance, and even if we eat well and train hard (hard=smart), without exercising our brains by creating space and fostering true reflection and deep thought, but instead hopping from one website to the next all day every day, we do not have balance. I am often guilty of not striking a healthy balance between these worlds, so reflecting on the subject is as beneficial for myself as it (hopefully) will be for you!
We live in a modern, urban world filled with endless stimuli and demands. I, for one, work in the financial district of San Francisco, and buzz around daily from one client to the next, constantly texting and emailing over scheduling and other logistical matters. I am very 'on' all day. Although I love what I do, when I get home my head is often buzzing and scattered. Progressively over the last year or two, I have noticed small and steady changes in my ability to calm this scattered-ness. Whereas I used to be an avid journaler, reader, and thinker (and I still like to think of myself as all of those things), I've had to admit recently that it has become harder to sit down and truly focus on these linear, deep-thinking, and reflective sorts of activities.
In speaking of the impact constant internet browsing has on our brain, Carr notes that it has allowed "thoughtful people to slip comfortably into the permanent state of distractedness that defines the online life." He later goes on to discuss how search engines (mainly Google, now both a common household noun and verb), have strong financial incentives to ensure the above mentioned mental state holds true. "The last thing the company wants is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. Google is, quite literally, in the business of distraction."
I am not going to delve into much more of a book review (you can read it and decide for yourself!), or attempt to defend both side of the arguments for and against extended internet browsing (of which there are many valid points). I would never discount the many benefits of widespread access to information via the web, it is absolutely incredible and beneficial, and many studies show greatly increases our ability to multi-task. However, with this increased ability to do many things at once (which can benefit us in our fast paced jobs and lives), we may also be decreasing our ability to focus, reflect, and calm down.
As mentioned above, I am not preaching anything or making a call to action that we all immediately abandon our computers and head for the woods (although that kind of sounds nice!!). I am simply suggesting that we all (myself very much included) evaluate the ways our use of the internet and computers is affecting our thought patterns and daily lives, and, if necessary, consider what changes may be beneficial to ourselves, our relationships, and our overall quality of life.
And while you're thinking about that, sip some Tulsi Tea for adrenal support, because this stuff can be stressful :)