10 Ways The Internet Changes Your Brain

These days we heavily rely on search engines to answer all of our questions about the world In fact, the average number of Google searches per day has grown from 9,800 in 1998 to over 3

5 billion today But do people retain the information they search for? Well, according to a study published in 2011 by Science Magazine, the ‘Google Effect’ which is the tendency to forget information that can be found readily online, is taking a serious toll on our brains Researchers staged four different memory experiments In one, participants typed 40 bits of trivia in to a computer; for example “an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain” Half of the subjects believed the information would be saved in the computer; the other half believed the items they typed would be erased

The subjects were significantly more likely to remember the information if they thought they would not be able to find it later But is this a true sign of memory loss, or just pure laziness? Well, the long term effects of excessive internet usage seemingly point to the former Or at least a mixture of both Individuals who rely on the internet too much could end up suffering from deterioration in cerebral performance such as short term memory dysfunction, also known as “Digital Dementia” The internet might be eating your memory, but don’t worry, something extraordinary is happening at the same time: we’re getting better at finding the information we need

Essentially, the brainpower we used previously to retain facts is now being used to remember how to look them up This idea that people are prioritizing where information is located has led some researchers to suggest that digital devices and the internet have become a form of transactive memory In simple terms, this means the internet has morphed into our own personal external hard drive Although, it might be best to avoid uploading your deepest, darkest secrets to The Cloud As well as helping us to locate information, studies have found that the internet can also make adults smarter

Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles compared the brains of middle-aged participants who rarely used the internet to experienced internet users, as they surfed the web for an hour a day After five days, areas of the prefrontal cortex in the less experienced internet users became significantly more active This is a damn good sign, as this is the area of the brain that controls, the ability to make decisions and integrate complex information So thanks again, Internet! How many of you are watching this video, while simultaneously performing a bunch of other tasks? Yes, I'm talking to you – person simultaneously checking your Facebook while watching this Multitasking is not a new phenomena, it existed way before the birth of the internet

But smartphones and laptops – with their infinite numbers of tabs – has made multitasking much easier Now, this may seem positive, but actually our love of multitasking is making it harder to concentrate Stanford neuroscientist Russ Poldrack has found that learning new information while multitasking can actually cause information to go to the wrong part of the brain Normally, new information goes into the hippocampus, which is responsible for the long-term storage of knowledge However if, for example, a student is studying on their laptop whilst also watching TV, the same information might go to the striatum, which is responsible for storing new procedures and skills, not facts and ideas

Basically, this means that it’s stored in a shallower way, preventing quick retrieval in the future There’s a reason why you are so obsessed with the cybersphere: Internet addiction can cause the same brain changes that heroin does to addicts That’s right, using the internet everyday can apparently have the same effects as shooting up in an alleyway You see, internet users feel the same stimulation received from gadgets, that drug users do with Class A’s The culprit is dopamine, which is delivered as a response to the stimulation — without it, you feel bored

‘Internet Addiction Disorder’ is not yet classified as an official mental health condition, but there’s extensive research out there to prove that it’s a very real problem There are even Internet addiction rehab centers The first in the US opened way back in 2009, called reSTART Patients at the centre must complete a 45-day program designed to bring balance back to their lives Too much doom and gloom? How about another positive change? The internet has birthed a whole new form of innovation, making it easier for artists and non-artists to engage with creative media

There’s no doubt that the digital revolution has produced a large number of unique products and services From Google, to Airbnb to Spotify to Club Penguin, there’s been an explosion of creative activity in the cybersphere These days there are over 25 million apps, and around 300 hours of video are uploaded to Youtube every single minute That’s a lot of people using the platform for creative purposes

Author Clay Shirky argues that the Internet enhances what he calls "cognitive surplus," the excess hours and brain power we can devote to pursuing activities and goals we enjoy Social media is also a powerful tool for online creatives, with its culture of sharing, users feels more inclined to create and share something of their own That could be anything from a blog post, to a book review, to a Youtube video Social media might be good for creativity, but it can also have a significant impact on social interaction in real-life situations, also known as the ‘Distancing Phenomena’ The theory goes that what a person does in cyberspace is very different to what someone can do face-to-face in an actual conversation

UCLA scientists tested it out They stranded two groups of sixth-graders in the woods and forced them to camp out for a week One group was free to continue using their Apple devices to their hearts' content, while the second was forced to step off the grid and live without internet After just five days, researchers found that the Internet-deprived group was significantly better at recognizing nonverbal communication such as "facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, and body language" than the group that had remained glued to their screens So do us a favour and get off your phone or laptop, well after you finish the video of curse

Have you ever got the sensation that your phone was vibrating in your pocket when actually it wasn’t at all? If so, you’re one of the 90% of people who suffer from ‘phantom vibration syndrome’ Dr Robert Rosenberger, professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, says the modern day phenomenon occurs due to “learned bodily habits” Movement of clothing or muscle spasms can often cause you to reach for your phone, only to find you haven’t got a message, or even a retweet Today mobile phones are causing these hallucinations, but in the 1990s, people reported “phantom pager syndrome” David Laramie, a clinical psychologist claims phantom vibration syndrome is simply “part of the modern landscape and our relationship with technology

” According to Laramie, PVS is a generational thing If you grew up with cellphones and the internet, and have them ingrained in your daily life, you’re more likely to experience the effect than older people or technophobes For thousands of years, we have all been reading in the same linear fashion, from left to right But when Tim Berners Lee launched the World Wide Web in 1991, our novel-like way of reading changed dramatically These days we’re more focused on scanning for keywords, following links, and gathering small amounts of information while we skip across different pages and tabs

According to neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf, who has studied the effects of the Internet on how we read, the only way we can preserve the old ways is to teach children both methods of reading But that’s only if we agree that maintaining the old ways is even desirable Beyond this, our brains are even training our eyes to move in certain patterns on the screen The NNG research group have coined this new way of reading as the “F-Shaped Pattern”, whereby a person’s eyes move in an F-shape down the page This theory goes hand in hand with our crap attention span

So if a piece of content or information is longer than a few lines, most of us won’t read it We’re a fickle bunch Do you believe everything you read online? You’d be surprised at how many people do You see, companies set up thousands of fake “grassroots” personalities to swamp message boards with a specific opinion in the hopes that you will notice the sheer number of comments arguing something such as ‘Kanye for president’ and be swayed by them Most commonly known as “astroturfing,” this sneaky way of tapping into the brains of internet users is used by everyone from tobacco companies to the US Air Force—and the terrifying thing is, it’s working

A Canadian study quizzed 278 students about climate change and asked how they felt about it They were then randomly assigned to view either a real climate science page, or an “astroturf” one set up to discredit the idea The results were pretty alarming The students who visited the fake pages and encountered the fake commenters were more likely to be less certain about climate change than before, even when they thought the websites were lying It doesn’t stop at climate change though

These days, political campaigns are won, and lost, online New Yorker writer Adrian Chen claimed that Russia hired thousands of trolls, likely being paid by the Kremlin, to spread pro-Trump propaganda on social media during the 2016 presidential election Have you noticed that you’ve been getting a bit of Twitter rage recently? Or feeling serious FOMO about the party you missed and everyone is talking about on social media? Well, the internet has the capacity to make your brain feel a whole host of emotions Take Facebook for example It’s a craze that refuses to die and according to science, it’s making us all absolutely miserable

A study published by the Public Library of Science in 2013, monitored participants’ Facebook usage for two weeks while simultaneously keeping tabs on their mood The results showed that frequent Facebook users reported lower life-satisfaction both at the end of the fortnight and after individual visits to the site Depression is only one side effect from Facebook, though A separate German investigation found that the primary emotion felt by young people on the site is envy The theory goes that most of us inflate our achievements and happiness on our profiles, but somehow miss the logical assumption that everyone else is doing it too

It’s not all bad news though, the Pew Research Centre found last year that Facebook users have more close friends, more trust in people, feel more supported, and are more politically involved compared to non-social media users Let’s just hope their political views aren't being influenced by astroturfers So that’s 10 Ways The Internet Changes Your Brain, which of these did you find the most interesting? Let us know in the comments! If you enjoyed this video, why not check out 10 Ways Your Mind Plays Tricks On You

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