A team of Canadian scientists released a study this month that offers another unique perspective on the human brain’s synthesis with the collective-information of the internet. Studies have already shown that humans will incorporate their internet habits into their circadian rhythms of the body, and that when used on a regular basis, the brain undergoes a variety of changes that could be good or bad, depending on how it is used—much like some drugs, sex, and essentially anything that can take a person away from the ever-pervasive present moment. The quick highlights of the study were listed as such in its publication in the journal, Consciousness and Cognition.
- Access to the Internet decreases willingness to volunteer answers to questions.
- Access to the Internet can increase the quality of information in memory reports.
- Access to the Internet can decrease the quantity of information in memory reports.
- Feeling-of-knowing can be lower when Internet access is available.
- Internet access can affect processes of metacognitive monitoring and control.
These findings can basically be broken down into three categories of affect: metacognition (the subconscious networking that creates full thoughts), memory performance, and transactive memory (the cognition of data exchange between groups of people). Much like how it would be more tempting to drink alcohol while it sits in one’s cupboard than while it sits on the shelf at the store, it is also more tempting to defer answering questions definitively when a person has the wealth of human data on their smart phone.
Again, this could theoretically enact some positive developments in the brain—so long as the brain does not become dependent on the usage of the internet’s information. While it might indeed be more rational to defer answering until verifying one’s answer on the internet, it should be agreed on that someone who is incapable of venturing for a question’s answer without the internet would be considered neurotic and unhealthy. Drawing attention to the fourth highlight, the feeling of certainty when knowing an answer is usually diminished when internet connection is possible, again either potentially humbling individuals in the appropriate times, or creating brain-dead screen-slaves who cannot think for themselves. Drawing another parallel to sex and drugs to illustrate the analogy of altered states of consciousness, the fact that the internet affects “processes of metacognitive monitoring and control” signifies a reflection of the person’s induction of internet activity into their personal body-rhythms and habits, which will naturally lead to brain modulation in the short and long-term.
This study may also help allude to the dualism that has been accented in the human brain by the internet. A clear differentiation in thought process shows a separation of behavioral patterns that is catalyzed by the exterior circumstances. Akin to the different “social masks” that people wield around different members of their social circle, it could be postulated that—from the perspective of Ancient wisdom—it is important to remember a synthesis of the East’s “Middle Path” philosophy. Instead of fluctuating between two extremes, perhaps the way through the middle of the extremes is best.
While refusing to use the internet might prove to make one look either incompetent or conceded in some situations, refusing to use one’s brain when there is no internet connection is simply detrimental to the self. The lesson from this study appears to be that personal focus in the present moment is always required of any individual looking to better themselves, especially in today’s culture. In addition, it might also show that, once more drawing the aforementioned addiction parallels, it is important to be mindful about one’s internet habits and how this is affecting their social and personal lives; it also leaves questions regarding other types of human/screen activities, like watching cable television. Studies have already demonstrated that “binge-watching” television (a habit that has received a massive spike since the dawn of Netflix) is notably unhealthy for the brain in heavy doses and tends to exaggerate depressions and anxieties. Other studies have come out showing that talking on a wireless phone for over a half hour begins modulating the brain glucose metabolism, especially nearest to the antenna.
As always, it seems that the facts of life continue to hold up: EVERYTHING in moderation!
Sources: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810015300234, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184892/, http://mic.com/articles/110164/science-has-bad-news-for-people-who-binge-watch-tv-shows#.2QHwK6ob4