Every day you spend hours online; never before have you done so much of a single activity. Nowadays you spend hours just sitting in front of a computer screen reading, typing and clicking. Even five years ago you never did so much of this kind of thing. And as for 20 years ago, well life was very different then.
But the Internet has kind of crept up on us. Suddenly it seems we are all online all of the time, conducting most of our business via the web. However, new research shows it may not be the advantage we think it is. In study of over 2,000 people psychologists have discovered that the regular use of the Internet is affecting our ability to concentrate and our memory.
For some time now it has been shown that as we use the Internet more our ability to attend to things drops. Equally, so does our ability to remember and recall things. After all, when you have such effective search systems online, why do you need to make an attempt to remember things? In the past, for instance, you would have remembered exactly in which physical photo album on your bookshelf were the pictures from your holiday at Disneyland. Or you would have recalled exactly which book contained that vital piece of information you used regularly. Now, you don’t even attempt to remember such things because the search facility on Flickr will find you any picture in fractions of a second and if you want the info from the book, well Google can find it or the search facility within your Kindle will get it.
This new research, however, indicates that most of us do not realise the mental impact the Internet has had on us. Only 20% of the participants were aware of the effect the Internet has had on their ability to concentrate or recall things. Most of us are oblivious to the effect.
But we only need to think of what our Mum told us when we were growing up. Those “old wives tales” of “too much of a good thing” ring true. Spending hours online is not good for your brain, as would spending hours reading books or spending hours watching TV or spending hours playing football. Variety of activity is what our brain thrives on. So perhaps it is time to stop using the Internet for almost everything we do. Dust off that printed encyclopaedia instead of going to Wikipedia, write a letter instead of using email or store your photos in a physical album instead of using Twitter. It might be less convenient, perhaps, but your brain will love it.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+