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How the internet may be changing your brain

"Just imagine what life would be without the internet. Some of us actually remember the time before everything was connected, but the thought of living without smartphones, maps, where search engines running at our fingertips, now seems completely alien to us. But how is our increasing reliance on the online world affecting us? Our relationships, sources of information, and the way we interact with each other are rapidly changing, and there are even noticeable effects occurring within our brains.

With more and more devices relying on the internet, it's no surprise that worldwide access is continually increasing. In 2016, an estimated 3.5 billion people across the world accessed online services. The top three countries were China with 721 million users, followed by India and then the US with 290 million users. By far, the most common language used online is English, followed by Chinese and Spanish.

The reliance on using the internet is clearly changing across generations, mainly depending on those who had to adapt to the new technology or those who grew up with it being readily accessible. Generation X internet users, who were born between the mid-1960s and early 1980s, logged an average of 110 minutes of mobile internet usage each day, while Millennials, who were born from the early 80s onward and grew up with the internet, logged an average of 185 minutes per day.

Social media and messaging apps have become crucial to how we live our lives and communicate, with more than a billion people regularly using apps like WhatsApp, and even more using platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Now, with the increasing use of Internet services, it seems only natural that our behavior is changing as well. Communication through these platforms is far more common, which means phone calls and text messages are dropping in popularity, and the use of online shopping and services has caused a sharp decline in the use of traditional high street stores. Our towns and cities are starting to look very different from a few decades ago, and this can all be attributed to what's now available online.

So, how is all this affecting our brains? With such a wealth of information at our fingertips, the prevalence of the internet is changing the way we work. Millennials, for example, have been found to be far more forgetful than previous generations. This is thought to be a direct result of the constant distractions that connectivity brings. The basic principle behind memory is that the more a piece of information is repeated and thought about in your short-term memory, the stronger it's stored within your long-term memory. Constant new information, however, prevents this process from taking place as effectively, and far less is permanently stored.

Further to this, the knowledge that information is readily available online means that you're less likely to form a memory of it. While previous generations would have memorized directions on a map, for example, now there's a reliance on being able to access this GPS app on your phone. We're also becoming more addicted to our smartphones. Constant glances to check for messages or updates mean that we're becoming more and more used to developing a habit of being distracted. Our brains are less used to transitioning into deeper modes of thinking, which makes it more difficult to do this when we need to.

Some research has also shown that the constant flow of information means that we are losing cognitive control. This means not only is our ability to control our minds reducing, but also our ability to decide what we're thinking about. The more you rely on your phone and an app to provide you with information, the less you are able to determine what's important to focus on. We are increasingly more concerned with information that's new, as opposed to what's actually important.

So, what can be done? Although technology is clearly affecting the way our brains work, it's not necessarily a bad thing. Throughout history, inventions have always enabled us to focus less on one thing, so our time can be used somewhere else. For example, washing machines mean that people spend far less time cleaning clothes, so these extra hours each day are taken up by work or other activities. Similarly, the ability to communicate and find information much faster on the internet means that we have the extra mental capacity for other processes.

Still, reducing our screen time can help keep our brains more active and malleable. It's a good idea to be aware of how much time you're spending on distractions each day. So my advice is to keep track of how much time you're spending online and unplug every once in a while. Give yourself time to engage in activities that don't involve screens, such as reading a book, engaging in physical exercise, or spending time with loved ones. By doing so, you can strike a balance between the benefits of the online world and the need for real-world experiences.

In conclusion, the internet has revolutionized the way we live, work, and communicate. While there are noticeable effects on our brains and behavior due to our increasing reliance on the online world, it's important to adapt and find a healthy balance. Embracing the advantages of technology while being mindful of our screen time can help us make the most of this interconnected era without compromising our well-being and cognitive abilities.

Content created and supplied by: EdwardLadzekpo (via Opera News )

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