Posts Tagged ‘Technology Dangers’

Dealing with Technology and Information Overload

July 28, 2013

Whenever I read or hear something about our being victims of technology, I become extremely upset. I’ve written blog posts on this topic (See “Commentary on Newsweek’s. Cover Story iCrazy,” and “Net Smart.”) We are not passive entities. We need to be in charge of our technology. There was a very good article on this topic in the August 2013 issue of Mindful magazine. It is titled “A User’s Guide to Screenworld,” and is written by Richard Fernandez of Google who sits down with Arturo Bejar, director of engineering at Facebook, and Irene Au, the vice president of product and design at Udacity. Here are five strategies for dealing with different components of this issue.

Information Overload. There is way too much information to deal with and we must shield ourselves from being overwhelmed. We must realize that our time is both limited and costly. So we need to be selective and choose our sources wisely. When we feel our minds tiring we should rest or move on.

Constant Distraction. Multi-tasking costs. There is a cost in performing more than one task at a time. So try to complete one task or a meaningful segment of a task before moving on to another task. Let phone calls go to voice mail. Respond to email at designated times rather than jumping to each email as it arrives.

Friends, Partners, Stuck on Their Devices. Personally I cannot stand call waiting. I don’t have it on my phone, and if someone goes to their call waiting while talking with me, they will likely find that I am not on the phone should they return. Technology is no excuse for being discourteous. Moreover, technology provides us a means for being courteous, voice mail. So unless there is an emergency lurking, there is no reason for taking the call. Clearly, when there are job demands or something really important, there are exceptions, but every effort should be extended to be courteous. When there are other people present, give them your attention, not your devices. And call it to their attention when you feel you are being ignored.

Social Media Anxiety. Try to keep your involvement with social media to a minimum. The friending business on Facebook can be quite annoying. Moreover, for the most part these friends are superficial. Remember Dunbar’s Number (See the healthymemory blog posts, ‘How Many Friends are Too Many?” “Why is Facebook So Popular?” and “Why Are Our Brains So Large?). Dunbar’s number is the maximum number of people we can keep track of at one time is 150, but the number of people that we speak with frequently is closer to 5. I would be willing to up the number of close friends a bit, but it is still small. And he says that there are about 100 people we speak to about once a year.

Children Spending Too Much Time Staring at Screens. The advice here is to express an interest in your children’s digital life. Try to share it with them and try to develop an understanding of how to deal with technology and information overload.

Let me end with a quote by Arene Au from the article, which is definitely worth quoting: “We need to get up from our desks and move. There is a strong correlation between cognition and movement. We’re more creative when we move.”

© Douglas Griffith and, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Can Technology Be Harmful to a Healthy Memory?

June 13, 2010

A piece by Nicholas Carr in the Outlook Section of the Washington Post, “In Google we trust, a bit too much,” (June 6, 2010 B3) raised some interesting questions about the possible harmful effects of technology. The specific Google feature addressed in this piece was the directions one can request from Google. Of course directions can be found in a variety of sources besides Google, but the general concern was using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) for navigating ourselves. The Healthymemory Blog previously presented the study (“How Memory Works”) regarding the size of the hippocampi of London cab drivers. The hippocampus (its plural being hippocampi) is a brain structure essential for effective memory, particularly for the storage and retrieval of new memories. To receive a license as a London cab driver there is a test that requires the candidate driver to commit to memory the entire map of London. Drivers who earn this license had hippocampi that are larger then normal. The neuroscientist who led this study, Eleanor Maguire, fears that if London cab drivers adopt satellite navigation, their hippocampi will shrink with the consequent loss of much of their remarkable navigation sense. She is quoted as saying “We very much hope that they don’t start using it.”

So one expressed fear is that increasing reliance on GPS systems will result in the loss of our navigational skills (personally, I have little in the way of skill to lose here). Carr raises the larger fear that shrinking hippocampi, due to an increasing reliance on technology, could result in increases in Alzheimer’s Disease and senile dementia.

Readers of the Healthymemory Blog might regard this as a contradiction of the one of the premises of the blog that technology can results in increases in brain health. There is no real contradiction here. Whether technology is helpful or harmful depends on how technology is used. When one considers the potential of future technology, for example, the translation of written and spoken foreign languages, there is the possibility that we could become mental weaklings all too dependent on this technology. One can find a ready analogy to physical fitness where some of us are obese and/or in poor physical condition due to the many options in transportation that technology offers as well as the many options in sedentary entertainment.

However, technology can be used to enhance healthy memories. There are so many opportunities to learn new and interesting information and skills that do exercise our hippocampi. Getting information into our brains so that is retrievable exercises our hippocampi. Even learning how to find and retrieve information from transactive memory exercises our hippocampi. Moreover, we can exercise our hippocampi directly by using the mnemonic techniques presented in the Healthymemory Blog to learn new information.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.