In Pixar’s WALL-E, future humans live a lifestyle so technologically advanced that they rely on machines for even the simplest of life’s tasks. That’s what I thought of when I read that a third of smartphone users are online before they are out of bed. Look at that picture; I know we still do our own walking, but the resemblance is eerie.
Tony Dokoupil’s recent Newsweek piece argues that constant connectivity—emails, social media, smartphones, texts—can provoke loneliness, depression, and even psychosis. The article is sprawling and often anecdotal in its evidence, but it has a wealth of thought-provoking nuggets about the way the internet impacts our brains and our mental health. Some food for thought:
- “We are all cyborgs now.” We aren’t just tool-users anymore. Technology is such an innate part of us (think of what would happen if you lost access to all of your online accounts at the same time) that we are now animal-machine hybrids.
- “Most young corporate employees […] keep their BlackBerrys in the bedroom within arms’ reach.”
- Compulsive internet users display the same addicted behaviors as substance abusers. Like a gambling addict watched a card flip, “we get a mini-reward, a squirt of dopamine” at the arrival of each text, facebook notification, retweet, and the potential rewards they carry.
- Brain imaging shows that heavy internet users have a substantially modified prefrontal cortex, and changes in chemistry that mirror those of drug addicts.
Photo from mergy.org. I don’t know if they reproduced it with permission or not.