Whether we like it or not, technology and the way we use it is changing our lives. The same goes for the internet. Because technology and the internet are so integral to our lives – our decision making process, what and how we eat, what we think is right and wrong, our clothes, everything – we most likely wouldn’t know what to do without it.
With the degree of exposure to the internet, little wonder there is a huge debate: “Is the internet good or bad for your brain?” This is a personal question you will need to answer, and it depends on how you use the internet and how well you fare when you “unplug” from the internet (how well you fare when you’re not connected to the internet). Here are a few general facts about ways in which the internet is changing our lives. From those facts, you can then answer for yourself.
The internet has changed our lives for good; it has also affected brain activities positively and negatively. The question of its overall effect on you is something you need to determine for yourself.
Here are some ways in which the internet is changing our brains. It’s a mix of positives and negatives.
- We use the internet as our external hard drive: We do not hold as much information in our brains as we formerly did. This may be due to selectively choosing to forget, since we will always find the information on the internet or due to the fact that we’re becoming too lazy to memorize information knowing we can always get it back. It might be both, and more. We do not memorize even addresses, phone numbers and other vital information. We mostly just store these as contacts on platforms/services such as Google Drive or our phone and move on with our lives.
- We seem to be remembering less: Maybe a natural consequence of the point above, studies show that we seem to have lower rates of recall when we know we can find information on the internet in the future, and higher rates when it seems unlikely.
- We seem to be getting better at finding information: while we might be having a hard time recalling information, we seem to be getting better at discovering or finding it. This might seem like a good thing as we’re becoming more skilled at remembering where things are to be found.
- We seem to be increasing our IQs over time: There were predictions that the introduction of several technologies and technology platforms (video games, Facebook and so on) would fry our brains into oblivion. The opposite seems to be the case for most people. We are getting smarter. The only thing not yet known for sure is whether this is because of technology and the internet or evolution.
- Our concentration levels are taking a heavy battering: We have become lazy and distracted so when it comes to concentrating, we’re suffering. Most of the time we spend online is spent scanning through headlines but never spending time on the details. We’re also exposed to and interrupted by hundreds of notifications and other activities. Many of us can no longer concentrate and read more than a few minutes. Many people’s concentration levels are worsening by the day.
- We’re getting smarter at determining what is relevant: While we’re suffering from information overload and poor concentrations, we seem to be getting smarter at determining what is relevant and what isn’t. We come across so much junk information daily we have been practicing sorting what’s relevant and ignoring the rest.
- Our comprehensive abilities and attention span are at risk: The natural result of not “deep reading” and instead scanning or power browsing through everything over time makes our attention begin to drop and our comprehension starts to suffer.
- Our creative thinking abilities may also be suffering: We cannot be totally certain yet as to whether or not this is true. Neuroscientists, such as Professor William Klemm, say that creativity comes from a knowledgeable mind that also remembers a lot. We have seen creativity on the rise in an age with so little committal of information to the memory. So, is the creativity coming from people who aren’t affected by the internet or from people helped by the internet?
Back to our initial question, “Is the internet good for your brain?” You’d have to answer that for yourself. It depends on how you make use of it and how much of your life depends on it. All in all, it has been a wonderful invention and has been improving lives everywhere.