Digital Overload – Is Too Much Technology Tanking Our Productivity and Burning Out Our Brains?
There’s little doubt that technology is now an integral part of our lives. Most work is done on computers and laptops, and our smartphones are constantly within our reach. Laptops, smartphones, computers, and tablets keep us in touch with friends and family, help us work, provide us with information and keep us entertained. But it’s also causing digital overload.
“Just as food nourishes us and we need it for life, so too — in the 21st century and the modern age — we need technology. You cannot survive without the communication tools; the productivity tools are essential.”
In the past, technology made life easier – and though, to an extent, it still does, it’s also making life more difficult.
In fact, according to research at the University of California, San Diego, people today consume almost three times as much information as what the typical person consumed in 1960. The New York Times also reports that the average person switches websites 36 times an hour and often checks upwards of 40 websites per day.
According to neuroscientists at the University of California, the constant electronic stimuli that comes from being constantly connected is causing our brains to work overtime. We’re constantly juggling email, phone calls, instant messages and all sorts of other incoming information, and it’s undermining our ability to focus.
What is Digital Overload?
The human brain is a remarkably complex, but also hilariously simple thing – though humans are capable of amazing things, primitive impulses still play a massive role in how we behave.
One of these primitive impulses is the instinctive need to respond immediately to opportunities and threats. The constant notifications and feedback also release dopamine – which is addictive, and makes it even more difficult to disconnect.
According to Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “The technology is rewiring our brains.”
In his book, The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World, Larry Rosen explains:
“So many technological innovations have enhanced our lives in countless ways, but they also threaten to overwhelm our brain’s goal-directed functioning with interference. This interference has a detrimental impact on our cognition and behaviours in daily activities. It impacts every level of our thinking, from our perceptions, decision making, communication, emotional regulation, and our memories.”
Even when we switch our phones off and walk away from our computers, our brains remain hyper-alert.
What Does Digital Overload Look Like?
With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping many people at home, technology and devices are becoming more important than ever. Unfortunately, this is also leading to increased digital overload.
According to research, people who use their computers and check their social networking sites more often are more depressed. You can become more irritable, find it difficult to relax, feel fatigued, or experience physical symptoms such as headaches. Other problems can include:
- Sleeping difficulties For example, if you use your phone right before going to bed, you can find it difficult to turn off your brain and fall asleep.
- Visual issues When we spend so much time staring at our phones, we risk overworking our eyes. This can result in eye strain, blurred vision, or dry eyes.
- Bone density can also decrease We always use our devices while sitting or lying down. This lack of physical activity can lead to a decrease in bone density, raising our risk of breaking a bone.
- Gaining weight Sedentary habits may also make it easier to gain weight and raise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- High blood pressure We are more likely to develop chronic health issues such as high blood pressure because we are stuck to our screens and do not move our bodies as much.
Causes of Digital Overload
You’re spending way too much time on your phone.
If you spend too much time online without taking frequent breaks, you can experience digital burnout.
Consuming an excessive amount of information.
The amount of knowledge accessible on the internet can also be a concern. You may become overwhelmed by the number of stories about COVID-19, both online and on more conventional media such as television. 24 hours a day, information from an almost endless number of sources is available. Your brain, on the other hand, needs a break from all of that information input. According to research, navigating through the massive amount of knowledge available online will result in digital overload.
Too much media multitasking
When you multitask with media and use more than one screen at the same time, your brain can become overburdened. For example, you might check your social networking sites while binge-watching your favorite Netflix show. When the number of information sources grows, so do media multitasking habits. Unfortunately, humans are bad multitaskers when it comes to media. In reality, studies show that people who multitask on social media perform poorly on tasks that involve attention and filtering out irrelevant information.
To Sum Up
Digital overload is a serious problem, especially during the COVID pandemic, when many people are working from home and relying on their technology more than ever. Even something as small as switching off any unnecessary notifications, and making sure to only use one device at a time can go a long way to mitigating some of the harm that overload can do to our systems.
Next month, we’ll be discussing a few tips and tricks for dealing with digital overload and better managing your use of technology to improve your physical and mental well-being.