Minimizing media technology for a better life
Our Beloved Family:
I was recently a guest on the Dr. Oz podcast speaking about mental clarity and the role it plays in health. During the conversation, I mentioned how a life saturated in media technology can easily keep the mind so overly stimulated that there’s no room left to make space where clarity can occur. This is happening to all of us to some extent, but we don’t notice it because digital technology is ubiquitous to the 21st century lifestyle where chronic hyper-stimulation has become the norm.
When we stay in a hyper-stimulated mode for long periods of time, we live our lives in a mild state of fight-or-flight where cortisol levels remain elevated. Unfortunately, this has health consequences down the road because elevated cortisol has been implicated in hundreds of health problems. In fact, overdosing on technology, which is very easy to do, not only poses risks to physical health, but decreases the quality of relationships, and even alters the way we think, learn, and remember.
Here are ten ways it’s doing that.
- Overstimulation from technology (TV, computers, cellphones, notebooks, etc.) has consistently shown to be associated with impaired learning, executive function1 and attention deficit,2 increased impulsivity, and cognitive delays.3
- The brain requires downtime to process new experiences, committing them to long-term memory. Overstimulation short circuits this learning process.4
- Sixteen international studies showed brain scans of internet and game-addicted teens revealed gray matter atrophy in areas involved with planning, prioritization, organization, impulse control, cognitive control, and emotional processing, as well as reduced cortical thickness of the frontal lobe related to cognitive impairment.5
- When we’re multi-tasking (on the phone while doing something else) the hippocampus, which controls memory recall, switches off creating new, less efficient neural pathways that make remembering more difficult.6
- GPS is causing people7 and taxi drivers8 to lose their spatial relation capabilities.
- Increasing use of texts, email, and social media reduces the ability to read social and non-verbal cues, body language, and the emotional state of others.9
- By staring at screens barely 12 inches from our faces, myopia (near-sightedness) has increased 66% in Americans ages 12 to 54.10 In China, 90% of young adults are myopic, as are 95% of 19-year-old males in Seoul, Korea, largely attributed to screen-based technology.11
- The World Health Organization and experts like Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez have been warning the public for years about the possible carcinogenic and neurological effects of overexposure to EMF waves from electronic devices, wireless technology, and cell phones.12
- Our attention span is shrinking. The average visit to a webpage lasts 10 to 20 seconds.13
- A New York Times poll found 1 in 7 people spend less time with their partner because of media, while 1 in 10 spend less time with their children.14 As electronic communication between spouses increases, marital satisfaction decreases.15
You might want to think about how you could benefit from digitally downsizing your life in one or two ways.
So to create more mental clarity in my life (and for all the other obvious reasons), I’m digitally downsizing my life. While I can’t get rid of technology completely, I’m taking steps to de-emphasize its prominence in my life and reducing my temptation to use it mindlessly. When I got off all social media, I received frantic phone calls from friends wondering if something terrible had happened to me. On the contrary, it’s all good. I’ve gotten rid of my smartphone and gone back to a flip phone. Yes, they still make them. Not having internet access on my phone eliminates the temptation to check email, visit Twitter, watch videos, and surf the web when I need to be engaged with the world and people around me. I’ve also gone back to using a pager so that I use my phone to return only the most important calls.
So, I’m living like it’s 1999 again. I don’t mean to imply that it’s easy; it’s not, but I’ve committed a full year to what I call my media detox sabbatical. It should be a very interesting experiment. I’ll be sure to let you know the changes I experience as a result of it. In the meantime, you might want to think about how you could benefit from digitally downsizing your life in one or two ways. Don’t worry. You don’t have to get a flip phone.
Please continue reading to listen to Dr. Sadeghi’s appearance on the Dr. Oz podcast.
Light, Love, & Clarity in the Month Ahead,
Dr. Habib Sadeghi
- Christakis, D et al. (2012). Overstimulation of newborn mice leads to behavioral differences and deficits in cognitive performance. Nature. 2(546), doi:10.1038/srep00546.
- Christakis, D et al. (2004). Early television exposure and subsequent attentional problems in children. Pediatrics. 113(4), 708-713.
- Pagani, Linda et al. (2010). Prospective associations between early childhood television exposure and academic, psychosocial, and physical well-being by middle childhood. Pediatrics. 164(5), 425-431.
- Richtel, Matt. (2010). Digital devices deprive brain of needed downtime. The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/25/technology/25brain.html?_r=0.
- Dunckley, Victoria. (February 27, 2014). Gray matters: too much screen time damages the brain. Psychology Today. , https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201402/gray-matters-too-much-screen-time-damages-the-brain.
- Foerde, K et al. (2006). Modulation of competing memory systems by distraction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 103(31), 11778-11783.
- Bella, Rick. (June 11, 2010). Two hikers found after two-day search in Mt. Hood national forest. Oregon Live., http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2010/06/two_hikers_found_after_two-day.html.
- Frankenstein, Julia. (2012). Is GPS all in our heads? The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/opinion/sunday/is-gps-all-in-our-head.html?_r=2.
- Uhls, Yalda et al. (2014). Five days at outdoor education camp without screens improves preteen skills with nonverbal emotion cues. Computers in Human Behavior. 39(1), 387-392.
- Vitale, Susan et al. (2009). Increased prevalence of myopia in the united states between 1971-1972 and 1999-2004. Archives of Ophthalmology. 127(12), 1632-1639.
- Medaris Miller, Anna. (2014). Is nearsightedness an epidemic?. Us news & world report, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2014/12/01/is-nearsightedness-an-epidemic.
- Letter from the American Academy of Pediatrics to The Honorable Mignon Clyburn, Acting Commissioner, U.S. Federal Communications Commission, August 29, 2013. https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/7520941318.pdf.
- Nielsen, J. (2011, September 12). How long do users stay on web pages? Retrieved from Http://www. Nngroup. Com/articles/how-long-do-users-stay-on-web-pages/.
- Connelly, M. (2010). More Americans sense a downside to an always plugged-in existence. The New York Times.
- Social Media Study Finds Link Between Media Use And Relationship Satisfaction, The Huffington Post, (April 15, 2013), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/15/social-media-study-finds-_n_3086518.html.