Your Brain on Computers: A Reaction

By Jennifer Janviere

Hand with computer mouseA recent article in the NY Times asked the question: what happens to our brains on electronic overload? This topic is a popular recent discussion trend, with everyone from journalists, researchers, educators to the average American questioning the effects of living in the digital age. Are there consequences associated with perpetual multi-tasking; with our brains always bombarded by information and exposed to the background noise of everyday life?

Many researchers agree that multi-tasking in its truest sense is unachievable; that the human brain can only really effectively process one stream of data at a time. This doesn’t dissuade us, however,  from trying to pack in as many tasks as we can at one time. How many readers can attest to checking email at the dinner table or posting on Facebook while grocery shopping or walking down the street? How many people find themselves constantly distracted by the email inbox or barrage of incoming Tweets briefly flashing across the computer screen? One needn’t look any further than the recent articles and public service ads addressing the problem of texting while driving to recognize how common this really is.

At the root of the issue is the quickening pace of life, but also the increasing speed of technology. What was viewed as fast just a few short years ago is now considered to move at a snail’s pace (think dial up Internet). And as people see increasing demands on their work and home life schedules, there is pressure to get even more accomplished in a shorter time period. When everyone is constantly crunched for time, making the most of every precious second counts.

The conclusion by the scientific community seems to be that an overload of multitasking changes our brain function over time, ultimately damaging the ability to critically process thought and to focus. The result can be mental clutter and even fragmented, distracted interactions with those around us.

For the record, I consider myself a proponent of technology and I am grateful for the advances to the quality of life that it brings. I can remember a time before the Internet and email, but now can’t imagine life without these innovations. But equally important to keeping up with the pace of life is maintaining our relationships and overall balance. That means taking the occasional break and even unplugging from time to time.

Who knows? Maybe the occasional break from technology could be benefit our creativity and productivity in the long term.

Jennifer Janviere is a multimedia specialist and instructor in the Diederich College of Communication.

3 Responses to “Your Brain on Computers: A Reaction”

  1. 1 Hannah Yaritz June 16, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    This is so interesting! When I studied at Marquette I took several of Dr. Havice’s classes about media and the brain. I am glad research is continuing and people are showing interest in this topic!

  1. 1 Tweets that mention Your Brain on Computers: A Reaction « Communicate: The Diederich College of Communication blog -- Trackback on June 16, 2010 at 11:39 pm

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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