It’s no secret that the internet and social media have gained a plethora of popularity over the past decade. Nowadays, when you go to a grocery store or take a train, it seems as though just about everyone is glued to their phones.
The reality is that the internet and social media have drastically changed the way we connect with and communicate with one another. And although they’ve both brought positive elements to our lives, many people are concerned about how the internet and social media have changed the brain, particularly for the worse.
In this blog, I’ll explain some elements of the brain that have been impacted by the growth of the internet and social media. Let’s get into it.
Elements of the Brain that Have Been Impacted By the Internet & Social Media
One of the most popular concerns about how the internet and social media have changed humans’ brains has to do with their effect on our attention spans. Through platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Google, and more, we have so much information – more than we could ever know what to do with – at the tip of our fingers. With this being said, it’s no surprise that people are becoming increasingly distracted. This is why it’s not shocking that, according to research, our attention spans are shrinking.
And speaking of research, a study by Microsoft found that the average human attention span has decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015. The scariest part? This is shorter than the attention span of a goldfish, which is said to have an attention span of 9 seconds. This study suggested that our constant use of technology is to blame for this, and are we surprised? Unfortunately, not really.
Another concern about the internet and social media has to do with their effect on memory. Both social media and search engines like Google provide us with the ability to instantly access information. And although this is a good thing in lots of scenarios, studies show that it’s actually affecting our ability to remember information, and this is because we’re less likely to commit things to memory if we know we can get the answers in just a few clicks. After all, why would we remember things we don’t have to if we can pull them up in a matter of seconds?
Furthermore, the constant barrage of information we receive through social media may also be affecting our memory. In fact, research shows that those who spend more time on social media platforms have worse memory performance than those who don’t spend as much time on them. Are we surprised by this? Again, unfortunately no.
Last but not least, a growing concern around social media and the internet has to do with their effect on emotional regulation. Studies have shown that social media and internet usage has been linked to an increased risk of anxiety and depression. This is because, although we’re more connected than ever before, social media often leads us to compare ourselves and our lives to others. This can cause feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, loneliness, and isolation, especially if we perceive others to be doing better than ourselves.
Furthermore, because the internet and social media platforms are designed to keep us engaged, they sometimes give us content that elicits an emotional response. And although this can be positive, such as a heartwarming story, it can also be negative, such as tragic news articles, which can leave us feeling down and depressed.
The internet and social media have undoubtedly and increasingly changed the way in which we interact with the world, and although they’ve brought many positive elements to our lives, they’ve also brought some negative ones, including their ability to decrease our attention spans, their ability to worsen our memory, and their ability to interfere with our emotional regulation.
After reading this blog, I hope you’ll be more mindful of your technological use as well as pay attention to how it affects you. By being aware of the potential negative effects, we can surely take steps to limit them and enjoy the benefits that the internet and social media do have to offer.