Instinctively we know too much time on screens can’t be good for us. We even make jokes, slightly nervously, about digital detoxes. We go from the computer screen, to the TV, to the ipad to the phone, our eyes constantly grazing, our mind scattered and feeling emotionally delicate. What’s happening? Why can’t we tear ourselves away from them? And why do they make us feel so flat?
We’ve taken a dive into some scientific journals to discover the side effects of all that time online.
Too much screen time can impair brain structure and function. For people with addictions (like we all have to a certain degree to our screens) many studies have found that the frontal lobe which is the area in our brain directly responsible for planning, organizing and controlling impulses is affected. As is the insula, which allows us to feel compassion and express empathy. This can make it difficult to form deep and meaningful relationships. Also, it’s very tricky to talk with someone when their deep into a scroll session on their phone.
All that time stooping and stressing over a screen can have some serious physical side effects too. Obesity, insomnia and mood swings, are just some of the downsides. Not to mention, strained eyes, blurred vision, sore neck and shoulders and headaches – ouch!
Social media downturn
Social media provides us with immediate rewards, a little like, a thumb tap and a smile. Very quickly your brain rewires to want more and more recognition. Scans of social media addicts show similarities to those of drug-dependent brains with a change in the areas that control decisions, feelings and desire for attention.
We need other people to be happy
Our cave man brains haven’t evolved nearly as quickly as technology. We still need face to face physical interaction, that we’ll never get from our phones. We are social animals afterall wired to operate off non-verbal communications just as much as verbal. Which is why most job interviews are still done in person. There’s a lot we learn from meeting each other in the flesh. A simple handshake, a back slap, holding the door for someone create a powerful sense of trust. Apparently, it takes us three seconds to decide if we like someone or not. That’s how tuned in our brains are to non-verbal communication signals. Voice tone, dress, handshake grip, fidgeting, we read body language quicker and more accurately than we’d read an online profile.
Feel good – get together
It’s nice to have real conversations with real people, in real life. Our brains release oxytocin when we are shown affection with a smile, a shoulder rub, an elbow nudge, a wink. Being around people makes us happy. Especially when we can be ourselves, our real selves and not the one-dimensional version of ourselves that’s posted online with witty hashtags.
Learn to put the screens down. Gather your family, keep your phone in your pocket, boil the kettle for a cuppa and pull out a packet of Talking Point Cards and get to know each other better asking lively and interesting question and just hang out together and have fun without screens.