Hippie guru Timothy Leary famously said, “Turn on, Tune in, Drop out.”
He may have been referring to psychedelics, but his quote is more relevant than ever when it comes to our culture’s connectivity with the cyber dimensions. No one is dropping out, however, and being constantly online is overloading our minds with dangerous results.
Hyper-connectivity—that state of being continually plugged-in to our devices—is a growing problem. There are solutions, as always, but first the bad news.
The damage caused by hyper-connectivity
We may be accustomed to living online, but how it stresses our brains is highlighted in an article by ATTN:, Here’s Why It’s so Important to Unplug.
Here are some of the weighty takeaways:
– Fifty-four thousand words—in the form of digital content—is dumped on the average social media user per day.
– We receive about 200 newspapers-worth of information every day.
– An average person—via texts, posts, and other media—produces about six newspapers-worth of information a day.
– There are 295 exabytes of data floating around the world—or basically 29,500,000,000,000,000,000,000 pieces of information. That is three hundred and fifteen times the number of grains of sand on Earth.
That’s just scratching the info-dump surface. The point is that hyper-connectivity is straining our minds that were never built to handle that amount of data on a daily basis.
qSample has researched the effects of hyper-connectivity on individuals, finding that social media users earn less income and that social media/internet is creating a split-personality culture that is harming Millennials, in particular.
Furthermore, the ATTN: article quotes the sober analysis of Max Blumberg, research psychologist from Goldsmiths University of London. He explains:
Our brains were never designed to be always on and permanently connected with the amount of stimuli that we get today. Our brains haven’t evolved to handle that level of high activity yet, and that’s a problem.
Blumberg explains that high stimuli like surfing the web are attractive because they create dopamine in the brain. He further states:
It’s really similar to having ADHD. People with ADHD, their big problem is that their cortex—the outer part of your brain that does the executive function like making decisions—doesn’t function in the way that it is supposed to. Unlike animals, who are distracted by every stimulus they encounter, human beings have the cortex, which is supposed to help them weigh up whether what they are currently doing is more important than whatever the new stimulus is—whether it’s a Facebook notification, phone call, or email.
This can’t be good, and other researchers are finding that hyper-connectivity may be causing depression, insomnia, narcissism, and lack of empathy among various demographics of society.
On a more “real” level, Mashable recently reported that more people have died from selfies than shark attacks this year.
(Scarier than Dr. Evil’s desire in Austin Powers for sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads, what will happen if sharks acquire smartphones and attach them to their frickin’ foreheads…)
Being online is even ruining eating experiences! At least according to Food Trend TV’s Dana McCauley, who stated:
Technology has reached a point where almost every human function has been turned into a business, absolving us of the need to develop the virtues we need to get along. Activities that were once considered part of the human experience have been outsourced to the Apple store, and it’s a sad indictment of the state of our society.
Basically, we are staring at screens during our wait at eateries, skip the experience of connecting with those who serve our food, and abort the ritual of eating with other by quick deliveries at home. At least McCauley admits we don’t have to deal with the manifestations of the Soup Nazi, although she doesn’t see it as a positive because at least it’s a “real” experience.
All of this for that dopamine? Leary was promoting LSD in his day, but the “high” of hyper-connectivity is a thousand times stronger, it would appear. Except it’s akin to the infamous brown acid that hippies were supposed to stay away from at Woodstock. It’s often a bad trip instead a journey of enlightening information.
I mean, it’s not secret by now that being plugged into a mobile device or computer can create addiction, starting with the “endless scroll, that keeps us going, is actually affecting our brain and creating addicting patterns not too dissimilar to drugs.”
(Many would say there is nothing wrong with making products that are like drugs; after all, some have said that good marketing is simply making your brand addictive, giving it that aura that the consumer can’t live without it. And tech companies know marketing better than most.)
In the end and beyond companies wanting to make dough, Blumberg states that hyper-connectivity is destroying critical thinking. Also, youth who learn to temper being online (and television) will likely be more productive members of society and leaders of the future.
There solution to hyper-connectivity
Going back to Leary’s quote, the solution has to do with dropping out after too much tuning in.
In a New York Times article, Daniel J. Levitin, author of The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, proposed some ideas to get us dropped out:
– Segment your day in online and offline activities (and stick to them).
– Also segment your online activities (as in a designated time to answer emails and another for posting on Facebook).
– Find daily hobbies or activities that are not based or at least loosely connected to the Internet.
– Take short breaks, walks or even naps when immersed in a prolonged digital period.
– When taking a vacation, make sure it doesn’t involve the internet at your disposal.
Levitin states that these solutions will take practice. It’s not easy to get offline when various screens of information are always hovering over us. But our brains will thanks us with renewed cognitive energy.
If not, just approach it like a bona fide addiction. As mentioned, brands like it when you lose your willpower—as they are only following their nature of marketing—but your nature has never been to be inundated with information to the point you miss out of nature all around you.
South Korea has the highest rate of internet addiction in the world. The country’s solution is to set up boot camps to offer “digital detox.” The premise is that at the root of internet addiction is the problem of making too many friends and relationships online, and being dragged down by the gravity of continual “checking in and checking out.” Creating “real” associations inevitable urges people to venture out into the world and away from their devices.
I like this quote by Leary that also exemplifies our hyper-connected society:
We are dealing with the best-educated generation in history. But they’ve got a brain dressed up with nowhere to go.
It seems instead of nowhere we should take our minds outside and make a flesh and blood friend. Just be wary for those sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads.