On Monday, The New York Times took an in-depth look at what heavy Internet use does to our brains. It finds that multitasking, such as juggling phone calls, checking e-mails and surfing the web, significantly impairs our ability to concentrate. The various forms of stimulation on the Web change the way we think, and these changes stay with us even when we're away from the computer:
The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored... These urges can inflict nicks and cuts on creativity and deep thought, interrupting work and family life.
Interestingly enough, a number of bloggers agreed with the article's thesis. Though often vigorous defenders of Internet culture and the web's effect on society in general, they concede that something about themselves has changed over the years:
- I Guess This Makes Sense, concedes Boonsri Dickinson at Tech Startups: "Researchers compare the lure of digital stimulation less to that of drugs and alcohol than to food and sex, which are essential but counterproductive in excess. So fine, I did get side tracked yesterday while I was surfing the Internet and was late to a brunch. Maybe technology is so habitual that we are unaware of how much we depend on it. I must admit when I didn’t have a smart phone or Internet for 2 weeks, time went by more slowly and I read paperback books."
- Take the Focus Test, urges Lisa Smith at Core 77: "If you're reading this right now, you're most likely multitasking, and a great candidate for the focus test that accompanies their article. Find out how good you are at ignoring distraction and juggling tasks. I did ok, but I can't help but feel like my score will deteriorate over time. Stack processing all the way!
- This Feels So True, nods Adam Frucci at Gizmodo: "Hell, I can sort of feel what the article is talking about. A lot of the time I'll start a task and, when near completion, get distracted by another window. A solid chunk of time will go by before I realize and remember that other thing I was supposed to be doing. So here I a..."
- Yikes! squeals Christine Lagorio at Inc. Magazine: "What's scary: Once you're addicted to the 'dopamine squirt' of that data stimulation, you can feel bored, or worse distracted, without it. Research shows that heavy multitaskers not only have trouble zeroing in on relevant information, but they're also more stressed."
- Weaning Yourself Off Social Networking Definitely Helps, writes the I4News blog: "The story has some scenes from the life of Kord Campbell who is used as example of a person hooked on gadgets. You can compare his life with yours. I am now less 'hooked' as he is, but I was there. Now I am able to manage my digital life pretty efficiently. What helps is to not spend your day in social networking sites and in video games. There are still many technical issues that need to be fixed to make my online life more effective. Email spam is one of them."