Digital Disorders: How Technology is Reshaping the Brain

With constant access to the internet via smartphones, tablets, and computers, it’s no surprise that our brains are profoundly different from our ancestors’. Cognitive neuroscientists theorize that this constant digital access is reshaping the ways our brains think, remember, and comprehend.

Unfortunately, studies show that the more we rely on technology to solve our problems, the less confidence we have in our own brain’s abilities. Our memory, attention span, and overall logic are suffering.  This digital “re-shaping” is also spawning a host of technology-linked brain disorders.   Without practicing proper moderation and digital “hygiene,” these technological disorders easily take over.

(NOTE: We started Netsanity to help battle digital addiction in our own families, we invite you to start a 14-day free trial of our service to see if it’s a good fit for yours)

Nomophobia (“No-Mobile-Phobia”)

Everyone has a phobia.  Whether fear of spiders, heights or simply the dark, each person experiences their own unique fears. However, for some, “No-Mobile-Phobia” proves to the scariest thing in their life.  Fear of losing or becoming separated from our smartphone is a powerful phobia, particularly for teens and students. Although this may sound somewhat silly and extreme, researchers find that about 66% of smartphone users suffer from this disorder, becoming stressed, anxious, and even hysterical when unable to use their phones for extended periods.

Technoference

At every restaurant, there is at least one couple lost in their phones; this couple is sitting together and sharing a meal, but their brains are far away, trapped in their texting, phone calls, or internet browsing.  “Technoference” is responsible for this common blight.  Smartphones are making an appearance much more frequently, even during meals, conversations, and leisure time with loved ones.  This digital interference is strangling the quality of many relationships.  It’s painfully obvious for parents that struggle to compete for their child’s attention; smartphones and computers are tough opponents.

Fauxcellarm (“Phantom Ringing”)

Have you ever rushed to check your phone only to find it was never ringing? This “phantom ringing” is playing frustrating mind-games with many adults and teens.  Clinical psychologist, David Laramie, found that out of 320 test participants about two-thirds experienced this odd phenomenon.  Always waiting for your next call or text, produces a kind of “hypervigilance” that keep you constantly waiting and on-edge.

Cyberchondria

Why go to the doctor when you can Google your symptoms?  Although we may agree with this to a small extent, most realize the wisdom of avoiding self-diagnosis.  However, a growing number of people feel that the internet is their favorite doctor.  Compulsively searching the internet for their symptoms or other home cures, produces something disturbingly close to basic hypochondria–the perpetual fear and obsession over illness. Constantly going to the internet for health advice and treatment options produces anxiety; we may begin to feel we are seriously ill with illnesses or injuries we simply don’t have.  This digital disorder also makes us more susceptible to buying into false, useless “home cures” sold online.

“Truman Show” Delusion

Based off the 1998 film, The Truman Show, this movie follows the story of a man who felt he was constantly being watched.  Although this movie was actually quite funny, the real-life “Truman Show” delusion is anything but funny for those who suffer from it.  This phenomenon gives people the misleading and often unsettling feeling that they are being constantly watched. They feel as though their life is literally being “broadcasted” for everyone to see.  Out-of-control reality TV shows and booming social media platforms reinforce this disorder. When left untreated, “Truman Show” delusion produced narcissistic, attention-seeking, and even paranoid lifestyles.

Finding Relief

Technology seems to be a critical necessity in our daily life. We often can’t imagine what it would be like to go without our smartphones or the internet. However, digital disorders are on the sharp rise, particularly among children and teenagers.  Their developing brains leave them open to greater risk of developing a digital disorder.  Teenagers and young people easily become addicted to the internet when proper boundaries are not in place.  Compulsive use, behavior change, and even “withdrawal-like” symptoms reveal this addiction.

Whether an adult or a parent, keep these simple tips and safeguards in mind to keep your family safe from these digital disorders.

  • Try a technology “fast” for a specific amount of time.
  • Instill technology-free times and zones within your house. This is easy when you use a trustworthy parental control with time control features.
  • Balance and place limits on your tech time (for every hour on the computer, counteract with an hour outside, etc.) Download a free family tech contract to set expectations early on!
  • Leave work at work (avoid bringing home computer-based work projects)
  • Show your teens the best ways to use the internet for school and education (show them that it’s more than social media).
  • Never sleep with your phone or tablet!
  • Regularly assess yourself and your family to see how much positive social interaction they enjoy during the week.
  • Invest in new, tech-free games and family nights (board games, sports, art projects, reading, hikes, etc.)

Although challenging, it is possible to find the proper freedom we need from our technology. The internet and our devices were intended to be tools, not handcuffs.  With simple safeguards against excessive internet and technology use, we can keep ourselves and our family safe from these dangerous digital disorders. Download our newest guide here for parents – the Ultimate Guide to Social Media.


Also published on Medium.


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