Four Digital Concerns of Our Generation

by Alexis Irias in May 14th, 2021
red and black abstract digital wallpaper

In his book, Limitless, author Jim Kwik, talks about what he calls “the four digital supervillains” of our generation. I really enjoyed reading these because it took the grander concept of “tech is bad for you” into four consumable whys.

I’ve summarized them below and paired them with a few discussion questions. I highly suggest having a conversation about these with your friends and family.

Digital Deluge

Research shows that the average American consumes about 34 gigabytes of data and information each day. That is an increase of 350 percent over nearly three decades.

Digital deluge can also be considered “information overload” as it is the collecting, consuming, and, storing of vast amounts of information in a short period of time.

There is something to be said about having access to as much information as we do these days. But have you stopped to think about what this could be doing to us; mentally, emotionally, physically? Evidence is showing that poor memory, mental fog, lack of good quality sleep, and fatigue are some symptoms of digital deluge.

Total daily screen time across devices in children 8- to 18-years old has risen from five hours to approximately eight hours since 1996, far exceeding the American Academy of Pediatric’s (AAP) recommendation of two hours or less.

Questions for discussion:

Do we create white space in our days? What happens when we don’t give our brain a chance to wander and be bored for a moment?

What is information overload doing to our nervous system?

Digital Distraction

Raise your hand if while reading this article you found yourself task switching (checking your phone, opening another tab, adding a song you like to a playlist on Spotify 🙋🏻‍♀️, responding to an email…)

The brain is in a constant state of attention shifting. This causes the prefrontal cortex and striatum to burn up oxygenated glucose, the same fuel they need to stay on task. That kind of rapid, continual shifting we do when we multitask causes the brain to burn through fuel quicker, leading to exhaustion and disorientation.

Questions for discussion:

How much more would you be able to accomplish if you didn’t get distracted?

How is this behavior affecting the youth’s ability to learn and retain information?

How is this affecting our ability to connect and be present with one another?

Digital Dementia

An over-reliance on digital tools leads to a breakdown in cognitive abilities. We are outsourcing our memory to external memory devices. You’ve perhaps heard the phrase “if you don’t use it, you lose it”

It’s said that Digital Dementia is a modern-day health epidemic that is unfortunately rarely recognized or discussed.

A couple of examples of digital dementia are:

  • we no longer remember directions as we rely on GPS, affecting our sense of direction and of course, memory
  • we default to “googling it” when trying to recall a specific date in history, name of a flower, that actress in the movie, or place in the world
  • not remembering a friend’s phone number or even birthday

We don’t even give our brain a chance to access our natural memory.

An article published by Sycamore Valley Chiropractic shares that digital dementia is a result in a sensory mismatch in the brain from overutilization of technology and excessive slouched sitting posture. Adolescents with Digital Dementia demonstrate a decline in cognition and short-term memory loss, symptoms associated with dementia. Furthermore, the occipital lobe in the back of the brain processes visual signals such as visual cues from a video game, social media or TV program. While seated and engaged with technology, the front part of the brain including the frontal and parietal lobes, are under-stimulated. These regions of the brain are responsible for higher-order thinking and good behaviors such as motivation, goal setting, reading, writing, memory, and socially appropriate behaviors. These areas of the brain are also responsible for movement and body position sense.

Questions for discussion:

When was the last time you chose to not use GPS to get to a new or familiar place?

How long do you give your natural memory to work before defaulting to a google search?

Which one are you most guilty of?

Digital Deduction

Technology is telling you what and how to think. The process of deduction — a blend of critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity — is becoming automated. Google something and you’ll find the rabbit hole you want to go down based on how you phrase the question. Our reasoning is biased, meaning we don’t give an alternative perspective a chance because we default to validating our perspective with what we find. On the other hand, persuasive advertising and algorithms are influencing our way of thinking and behavior and we rarely stop to question it.

Children don’t have the analytical ability that they used to. Research is finding that it’s because technology does it for us. Ask a teen about something they may not know about and they immediately grab their device to google it.

Questions for discussion:

What are some ways we’ve seen this play out during the pandemic?

What are some biased perspectives you have? When was the last time you questioned the alternative?

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