Here is a revealing statistic:
70% of Humans own a smartphone, and nearly 2 hours are spent a day on social networking.
42% of waking hours are used to watch TV, smartphones, tablets, computers, etc.
With these raw numbers, we can calculate that the average American could spend more than 6 hours a day staring at a screen.
With as much connectivity as we have in our world, it can create disconnection within our brains.
There are wonderful benefits to social media, the internet...the INFORMATION AGE. But when it is overused and abused it can lead to a neural network within the brain geared for instant gratification, constant cravings, fear, anxiety, impulse and even depression.
How? It develops through fixation on the device of our choice. And the information companies of our world know the psychology and biology of the brain. Our brains are plastic in nature, known as plasticity, which means it is moldable. The more we wake up first thing in the morning and look at a screen within the first 15 minutes, we are searching for our first dopamine rush in the morning. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter commonly referred to as a pleasure chemical. The more dopamine we release means an increase in a “good feeling”. It makes us feel loved, seen, accepted, or noticed.
This feels good, but research is showing that the more dopamine we release, the more our brains have to work to create balance...and this eventually results in the body reducing the dopamine receptors on our cells. As a result, we then increase pleasurable experiences(social media, smoking, alcohol, sugar, food, etc.) to try and keep the dopamine effect going. This can result in addictive behavior, and cause you and I to look for the next quick fix.
Information companies and technology know this, and they can customize their products to increase your attention and drive up profits. Now this is not to talk badly of any companies, but just to give you an understanding how your health can be affected by being DISCONNECTED. The cycle looks like this: information creates instant gratification, followed by addiction to short-term pleasure, and it mimics sustainable joy.
Neuroscience refers to this as the disconnection syndrome:
The reason this cycle works so well in our culture, is through the understanding of our brains. (We will talk more of the 3 brains in later posts, and I may repeat myself, but I love neuroscience.) The human brain has a section in the front called the prefrontal cortex, and why we are special is that our PFC is much larger than most other animals. It takes up about 1/3 of our neocortex, while chimpanzees make up 17% and dog’s 13%. This area of our brain helps with executive function, which helps us see another person’s point of view, engage in positive social settings, and make thoughtful choices.
The Information Age and our society today keeps us geared within the amygdala portion of our brain. This is a section of our brain that controls our threat-interpretation centers, and influences impulsive behaviors and reward. If this is constantly stimulated it can reduce the functionality of the prefrontal cortex, which helps us make good thoughtful decisions. We then can live in a world of constant cravings, fear, anxiety, and impulsivity. “Through caution out the door!” Now we can understand how gambling or binge shopping can create a quick fix.
There are simple ways to help get your brain out of the addiction patterns, and we will go further in future posts. They do involve simple changes to lifestyle such as exercise, diet, prayer, and monitoring tech use. You can rewire and refresh your brain, so stay encouraged!