Is technology a boon or curse? Depends on who you ask but one thing is for certain — It has altered human physiology.
For starters, it makes us think, feel differently and even dream differently. It affects our memory, attention spans and sleep cycles. This scientific phenomenon is known as neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to alter its behavior based on new experiences.
In the case of technology, it’s the wealth of information offered by the Internet and interactive technologies. Below are some of the major ways tech has rewired our brains, for better or worse.
1. We dream in color.
Television has been found to impact our psyche. According to a study, adults over the age of 55 who had grown up with a black and white TV were more likely to dream in black and white, while younger participants, who grew up in the age of Technicolor, nearly always experienced their dreams in color.
2. We dream in FOMO
Not long ago, people might have felt that they were not socializing enough. Today, due to social media, we notice a new phenomenon: FOMO or fear of missing out. Thanks to Instagram and Facebook, that feeling of inadequacy is fed by people living vicariously through their friends’ and family’s pictures and posts of them having fun. You wish you were doing more!
3. And “phantom vibration syndrome.”
We are now hard-wired to assume our phones are ringing, even when they’re not. According to a research psychologist speaking on NPR, “Something in your brain is being triggered that’s different than what was triggered just a few short years ago.”
4. We can’t sleep.
Neuroscientists suspect the glowing lights emitted by laptop, tablet and smartphone screens mess with your body’s internal light cues and sleep-inducing hormones. Exposure to bright lights can fool the brain into thinking it is still daytime and can potentially have lasting effects on your internal sleep clock.
5. Our memory isn’t great, and neither is our attention span.
Rote learning is passé. In a Google-happy world, when virtually any scrap of information is instantly at our fingertips, we don’t bother retaining facts. Social media and the Internet, it has been proven, have the potential of shortening our attention spans and affecting concentration skills.
6. We have better visual skills.
Studies show that immersive video games like Call of Duty and Halo force players to make snap decisions based on visual cues. This enhances visuospatial attention skills, or the ability to parse details of your physical environment.
7. But poorer impulse control.
At the same time, it has also been found that video games like Halo can inhibit players’ ability to rein in impulsive or aggressive behavior. Other studies have substantiated the idea of a link between violent video games (and other violent forms of media) and aggression and attention problems.
8. We create more.
Tech makes it easier for artists and non-artists alike to engage with creative media. As social media promotes a culture of sharing, users feel more inclined to create and share something of their own, be it a Flickr album, a book review, a contribution to Wikipedia or a DIY project. (Image via Shutterstock)