The Brain and Technology

by Siya Aggarwal

The first thing that we do when we wake up in the morning would be to open the never-ending list of notifications on their phone. Before we get out of bed we’re already checking if that special someone has texted us back, if our Facebook post got enough comments, if  Charli D’amelio has posted her latest Tik Tok, or if our streaks on Snapchat are still intact. We may not realize it but they are almost always tethered to some form of technology, whether it’s the latest iPhone in our pocket, computer in our bag, or smartwatch around our wrist. 

We sleep, eat, log onto social media and repeat, and how can we not? Technology is a must-have in the twenty-first century, a vital tool necessary to navigate life. If it’s not mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest, we are studying for our upcoming test using the variety of platforms technology has to offer, definitely nothing wrong with that. Apart from superficial trends and meaningless shenanigans that the youth of this generation participates in, there are numerous advantages for all age groups,with the introduction of technology in modern society. The most prominent of which is the immense range of information available at our fingertips. Alas, that which glitters is not always gold. 

All parents want their children to be safe while utilizing technology, some have tried to achieve this safety by completely disconnecting their children whereas others have tried methods of monitoring their online presence and activity. Parents eventually realize that none of this works and the adolescent populations’ dependency and addiction to technology is much more deep-rooted than seen on a surface level. However, in the 21st century, this may not be only applicable to teenagers. Platforms such as Linkedin, Facebook, and even Instagram have become more and more appealing for adults. Now that technology is being utilized by both teenagers and adults, it’s important for both parties to be aware of the risks that come with doing so. You may know of some infamous hazardous use of technology such as catfishing, cyberbullying and risky apps, but what you may not be informed of is the effects that technology has upon our brains. Since technology still is most used by younger generations, whose minds are easier to mold, technology’s effect on the brain has some devastating impacts, but this impact is still relevant with older generations. By comprehending all aspects of technology’s impacts and gaining a profound recognition of the true downfalls, a holistic understanding of all aspects of technology can be gained. 

Neuroplasticity. It is a phenomenon wherein the brain changes its behavioral traits due to new experiences. Like when a loved one dies or when they move to a different country, it changes you. New experiences in the context are referring to the vast range of knowledge available to them via technology. Therefore, their usage of technology has altered not only thinking but even makes them feel differently. To understand how to reach out to them it is important to know what these changes are and how technology plays a role in it.  The following are some examples of Neuroplasticity, how technology affects the brain:

FOMO: You used to spend Friday evenings at home, curled up with the latest Rocky movie, possibly having minuscule amounts of guilt for not painting the city red, partying it up with your friends. With the introduction of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram into our livelihoods, that microscopic response has intensified. Mostly, for the young generation but also has increasingly become applicable to adults. The constant notifications of  friends blasting music, partying and snapping their mouth-watering meals on their stories have created that twinge in your stomach making you think and feel like you should be there with your friends, getting tagged in all the pictures and stories- that is the phenomena of FOMO. For the people who are especially codependent and social media addicts, this mild exclusion causes them to question self-worth, get anxiety etc. 

Phantom vibration syndrome: is a modern-day occurrence is a perception that one’s phone is ringing or vibrating when, in actuality, it is not. According to Robert Rosenberger, PhD in the impact of technology on behavior, “some of us are concerned about missing a call or text that we’ve become extra aware of the sensations that mean one is incoming.” Researchers found that 90% of people that they conducted the experiment with, have experienced this. PVS is a bodily habit that rewires the brain so that basic physical urges for example scratching “may now be misinterpreted by our brains as a vibrating phone.” 

This means that even though we haven’t gotten a message, we will still keep checking their phone thinking that we have. This constant unlocking of our devices can lead to us being more absent during family gatherings and social functions than they should be, again this looks like it is only appearing with teens but it’s progressively expanding to other age groups. Nevertheless, this has no proven causation for harm apart from creating a hyperactive nervous system therefore is just an inconvenience but it can be tied back to short attention spans. 

It is clear that there are risks that accompany our utilization of technology, and there is no denying it, peoples overuse and codependency magnify those risks. However, something that no one ever seems to be willing to discuss, are the rewards that come with technology. Apart from easy access to limitless knowledge and convenient communication platforms, technology offers significantly more than what meets the eye. 

Developed visual skills: Studies have found direct correlations between first-person shooting video games and an increase in visual skills as well as decision making. The fast-paced action that takes place in these games provokes people to make well thought out quick reactions based on visual prompts which translates into our real-life activities and enhances our ability to “parse details of our physical environment.” 

Technology’s impact on the brain has been lauded by some cognizance specialists while some trust it has had negative impacts. So the fundamental question is do the benefits outway the dangers? In the 21st century, it is hard to avoid massive technology exposures but do we need to do that to live healthy lifestyles? Or are we appropriately living in the hub of modern technological advancements? We may not know answers to all these questions, but what we do know is that there is no denying that technology influences all our brains, from our deduction to our thinking and feeling. The knowledge of these effects of technology on our brains may help teenagers and adults alike make sound decisions regarding their use of technology, some may want to change their habits and others may persist and continue to indulge in all that technology has to offer. 

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