The ease of acquiring information in the modern world has impacted our lives in so many ways, that it is quite hard to grasp the magnitude of it.
The truth is that everything we do, from the thoughts we have, the emotions we feel, to the situation we experience, changes our brain.
Everything we do plays a role in the constant wiring and rewiring of our neural networks, so does internet as well.
The internet is changing how our brain works and processes information. But is it helping us progress or is it actually taking something away from us?
We are attempting to answer that question in the following sections where we look at 24 ways the new web of things is shaping our brain.
As computer memory power doubles approximately every 18 months, it seems, our own memory cannot keep up. In fact, with the rise of smartphones and the internet, we no longer bother to remember phone numbers, addresses, appointment dates, birthdays and general information anymore. The new web of things has become a sort of external extended memory drive where all the information we need is stored. The majority of us has become totally reliant on the availability of the information. Some people are even unable to navigate their own cities without the help of GPS or Google Maps.
With the ever-increasing growth of the web, information is now coming at us quicker and faster than we can digest it. Online libraries are growing in size at a fantastic speed and they contain more information that we can learn and memorize. However, multiple studies show that memorizing and learning facts that can be researched online wastes valuable brain power that could be used to keep up with more important things that can't be Googled.
In the age of the internet, multitasking has become a common practice. It is not ordinary for one person to use more than one window or application such as a word processor and an Internet browser open at the same time, while simultaneously using their smartphone. Some scientists will argue that this phenomenon of partial attention is a clever adaptation of the brain to the constant flow of digital stimuli.
4. Short-Term Retention
The new web of things has not only affected our long-term memory but our short-term retention abilities as well. In fact, a study by Science Magazine shows that people have lower rates of recall because they expect to be able to access information online.
With several search engines constantly at our disposal, we're getting better at finding the information we need. It seems that the brainpower previously used to retain facts and information is now being used to remember how to look it up. Our brain is adapting to new technology and becoming highly skilled in remembering where to find things.
There is no more denying that we are slowly morphing and becoming one with technology. Our brain is now part human and part machine. In fact, study shows that when faced with difficult problems, questions, and challenges, most people turn to computers and the internet for solutions and responses. We also turn to the internet for entertainment, friendships, love, and sex.
7. Higher IQs
Some studies are suggesting that technology is making us smarter rather than making us dumber. The hypothesis is that our brain is being rewired to think in ways that machines and artificial intelligence cannot understand nor mimic yet, allowing us to develop higher emotional IQs.
Technology is also changing our ability to concentrate or focus. When it comes to reading more than a few minutes, or even moments, of information, our mind often begins to wander and daydream. That phenomenon is due to our online surfing habits. Our time online is often spent scanning headlines and posts and quickly clicking links, never spending much time on any one thing. Our brain now constantly needs to be stimulated to remain engaged.
Discernment is the ability to judge well and make the right decision in any given situation. With so much information online, we are becoming good at filtering relevant data from junk. Our brains are getting better at recognizing what's reliable from what is not every day.
MRI research has shown that the brains of Internet users who have trouble controlling their craving to be constantly plugged-in exhibit changes similar to those seen in people addicted to drugs and alcohol. A 2011 study showed that unplugging from technology for one day gave some users physical and mental withdrawal symptoms.
11. New Neural Pathways
A study by UCLA professor Gary Small shows that Internet use changes neural pathways. Experienced internet users seem to have more brain activity than people who don't use it as much, especially in the areas typically devoted to decisions and problem-solving.
12. Social Intelligence
The new web of things has given rise to new ways of sharing, networking and meeting new people. It has shaped our brain to be more social and connected to more people. In fact, the buildup of free time among the world's population is a new resource that can be harnessed and utilize for professional and personal purposes.
The internet is turning most of its heavy users into "human-scanners." In fact, when we browse online we are scanning the information rather than truly reading it and engaging with it. Instead of left to right, up to down reading, we seem to scan through titles, bullet points, and information that captivates our eyes.
14. Critical Thinking
Our brains use information stored in the long-term memory to facilitate critical thinking. We need these unique memories to understand and interact with the world around us. If we rely on Google to store our knowledge, we may be slowly losing our ability to think more critically.
15. Improved Brain Function
A 2008 study suggests that use of Internet search engines can stimulate neural activation patterns and potentially enhance brain function. In fact, technology may have physiological effects and potential benefits because searching on the internet engages complicated brain activity which may help exercise and improve brain function.
16. Abstract Information
Abstract concepts and ideas need to be visualized, as they cannot be illustrated through concrete real examples. Since a lot of the information online is sometimes abstract, with the internet, our brain is evolving in such a way that we are getting better and better at dealing with abstract information.
17. Lucid Dreams
According to Jayne Gackenbach's study, people that play complex online games report having more lucid dreams than other people. The hypothesis is simply that video games train the mind to take control of a fantasy situation.
18. Fear Of Missing Out
Fear of missing out or also called FOMO is the feeling that others might be having much more rewarding experiences from which one is absent. It is caused by a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing on social media. There are strange anecdoctal evidences that looking at pictures of friends' meals on Instagram and Pinterest makes our own meal taste bland by comparison.
19. Phantom Vibration Syndrome
We are now hard-wired to assume our phones are ringing, even when they're not. In fact, a recent research suggested that physical sensations, such as an itch, may now be misinterpreted by our brains as a vibrating phone.
20. Visual Skills
A 2013 study found that people that plays complex online games have very good decision-making and visual skills. Immersive games force players to make quick decisions based on visual cues, which enhances visuospatial attention skills, or the ability to parse details of physical environments.
Technology makes it easier for artists and non-artists alike to engage with creative media. Internet enhances our creative brain pushing us to find creative solutions to ordinary problems. It is something that can be widely observed with all the DIY projects available online.
22. Attention Span
Social media and the Internet have been shown to shorten our attention spans. In fact, the average human being is said to have an attention span of 8 seconds. That is one second less than that of a Goldfish which are believed to have an attention span of 9 seconds.
Neuroscientists suspect the glowing lights emitted by laptop, tablet, and smartphone screens are disturbing our body's internal light cues and sleep-inducing hormones. Exposure to bright lights can fool the brain into thinking it's still daytime, thereby making it hard for some people to fall asleep.