Technology is Doing Bad Things to Our Brains—and There’s Science to Prove It

From memory to attention span, logging hours in front of screens each day is negatively affecting our minds.

Goldfish now have longer attention spans than humans (theirs is nine seconds; ours is eight) and the explosion of technology we’ve experienced over the past decade could be to blame. That’s the theory explored in a fascinating story just posted by Axios, titled “How tech ate the media and our minds.”

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Our hyper-connected world has its perks — it’s much easier now to share information and ideas than it was in 2007. But there are drawbacks as well. TIME recently explored this problem too, in an article titled “You Asked: Is My Smartphone Making Me Dumber?” That story points to a 2009 Stanford study where people described as “media multitaskers” (think checking email, texting and surfing the web at the same time) had a harder time staying on task and “sorting important info from background noise.” That was eight years ago, and the noise has only increased since then. As Axios reported, every day there are billions of Google searches, 500 million Tweets sent into the Twittersphere and upwards of 13.8 billion hours of video shared on YouTube. Each day we check our phones 50 times (potentially more) and spend around six hours browsing digital media.

Our reliance on technology is not only making it harder to stay focused, but literally changing how we think. TIME reported that when we know information is just a Google search away, we’re worse at actually remembering and storing what it is we wanted to know.

We’re also struggling to discern what’s true. Another more recent study from Stanford (pointed out by TIME) found that students had a hard time separating real news from sponsored stories, even when an article was visibly labeled as an ad. That’s a big deal, for many reasons. Axios reported that 62% of U.S. adults use social media as their source for news, although 68% of people don’t even trust the news they read. That is, of course, if they actually click on it — research from Columbia University found that nearly “60 percent of all social media posts are shared without being clicked on.”

While this information might feel overwhelming, there are ways to disconnect and give your brain a break. Here are some tips for separating yourself from technology, if only for a little while. And if you want to know more about what technology is doing to our brains, read the pieces on Axios and TIME.