Scientists recommend technology diet

Posted by Lydia Leavitt

Could too much Facebook, Twitter, TV, and texting be bad for your health? As the amount of outside stimuli from technology increases, scientists are concerned our brains could be at risk.

The human brain is wired to search for food, avoid danger, and find a mate. What the human brain is not wired to do is handle the level of stimuli it’s bombarded with on a daily basis.

Similar to the way our bodies crave excessive sugar and fat if given too much, our brains could crave technological stimuli in a similar way, which isn’t good for it.

Does that mean we need a technology diet? Some say yes.

Scientists at UCSF released a study citing evidence that multitasking impedes short-term memory, especially in older adults.

UCSF researchers previously found that distractions presented by smartphones or social networks can also hinder long-term memory and mental performance.

A 2009 Stanford University study similarly found that frequent multitaskers did worse on tests that required them to jump from task to task. These multitaskers did worse because they were more distracted by useless information that popped up during the test. 

These studies show that too much stimuli and multitasking may impair our brains from jumping from thing to thing naturally, making it harder to resist the call of Facebook mid-project or conversation. The result? A technology addiction.

"The best way to define it is in terms of the offline consequences," said Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, director of Stanford's Impulse Control Disorders Clinic and author of the new book "Virtually You."

"Are we suffering in terms of our cognition and attention spans because of all the time we spend online? Is our professional life negatively impacted because of all the nonessential Internet surfing we do at work?"

The doctor says yes. Those that are constantly connected and multitasking find it much harder to maintain a steady focus when trying to read a book, watch a movie, or even have an in-depth conversation without feeling the need to check their phone or update Facebook.

Although adults can feel the pull of technology and some can even recognize budding addiction, many parents worry that kids growing up in such a high tech era will be completely addicted to technology with no hope of ever carrying on a conversation or read a book.

In 2010, a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation concluded that 8- to 18-year-olds average seven hours and 28 minutes consuming entertainment media a day. And it’s not just one form of media, most kids surf Facebook or text with friends while watching TV or fiddling on the computer, packing in around 10 hours and 45 minutes of content into that time period.

Although scientists and people recognize the addictive nature of technology, the world we live in demands a high level of connectivity and productivity in the form of multitasking.

Society is making moves to limit technology, with laws in motion outlawing texting while driving or banning certain tech devices in schools. One New York senator even suggested banning pedestrians from using cell phones, music players, and gaming devices on public sidewalks.

Although there is no prescribed cure for overactive Facebookers or phone-addicts, the diet parallel can be of use to those wanting to take a break. Much like too much sugar or too much fat in one’s diet, it may be time to buckle down and restrict the hours spent with phone or tablet in hand.

(Via SF Gate)