Considering the Effect That the Internet Has On Memory

Anthony Carboni of DNews examines the effect that the internet has on the human brain, particularly in regard to short and long term memory.

It’s that feeling of short-term overload that’s really letting the internet affect us. When you’re writing a paper, checking Facebook, looking at Twitter, getting an email ding, well that’s your four thing limit. You’re always putting yourself into a place where you’re overloading and swapping stuff in your short term memory…There’s some concern that because of the internet, we are re-wiring our brains to constantly scan for information rather than taking it in, losing our ability for long-term memorization.

The use of technology has also provided us with with a new type of generation gap specific to the digital age. According to Dr. Gary Small, author of iBrain: Surviving the Technical Alteration of the Modern Mind, there are two sets of users; the natives and the immigrants and how the wiring of the brain differs between the two groups.

Digital natives — young people born into a world of laptops and cell phones, text messaging and twittering — spend an average of 8 1/2 hours each day exposed to digital technology. This exposure is rewiring their brain’s neural circuitry, heightening skills like multi-tasking, complex reasoning and decision-making, Small said. But there’s a down side: All that tech time diminishes “people” skills, including important emotional aptitudes like empathy. On the opposite end of the spectrum, digital immigrants, born into a world of pocket calendars you penciled dates into and letters that got sent in the mail, have to work hard to embrace technology without the already-developed brain form and function. The good news, Small said, is that the flexible brain is eminently trainable. – UCLA Today

Good news indeed.