Tech + Data Intake = ?

[Editor’s Note: This article was written by the CTL’s Laurie Hansen.]

Technology is supposed to make things easier.  But does it cause us unnecessary stress?  2010 Pulitzer Prize winner, Matt Richtel, author of the NY Times Series Driven to Distraction, talks about how we all need downtime from the urgency of answering emails and responding to pings.  This urgency takes a toll on our stress levels.  So what should we do?

We should experience the “three day effect,” which means being completely unplugged for at least three consecutive days in order to refresh and revitalize ourselves.  Richtel says there is evidence that not spending time being still, creating, even being bored, causes neurological damage.  Constant use of devices actually deprives our brains.  He also says too much data intake harms memory, causes stress, and decreases productivity due to heavy cortisol production.  Yikes!

Don’t respond to this; I am unplugging… now!

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2 responses to “Tech + Data Intake = ?

  1. Laurie,
    Although you may be on your three day unplugging fast (lol), in all seriousness it is essential for our mental, physical, psychological and even spiritual to take time to disconnect from technology and reconnect to nature and even our deepest selves. How can we do that when we are distracted with reading and responding to messages all the time. We really do not need to be “tuned in” all the time. Why not just “be” for even a few minutes each day? The rewards will be immense.

    Oooooommmmm 🙂

  2. Laurie and Will and others,

    What Richtel says may very well be true.

    I have another explanation that he has overlooked, which lines up with my own experience: The real problem might not be with the technology itself but the fact that we are spending too much time on what is routine and trivial to us. Doing nothing but what is routine and trivial to us makes our brain grow sluggish because we are not exercising our minds by focusing on things that we need to think about deeply and carefully. For instance, my mind for higher mathematics can grow sluggish over time–not to mention forgetting that mathematics–if the only mathematics I think about is the same mathematics I can do in my sleep. I have experienced that myself at times after spending months not thinking about advanced mathematics.

    Maybe this experience of mine explains why people who favor intellectual growth crave to think about what is challenging for them rather than spending all their time working on things they know better than their own parents: I believe those people know that their brains will grow sluggish instead of remaining sharp if they do not seek these intellectual challenges.

    This same idea almost certainly explains why those teachers who really care about students’ intellectual growth and not just their learning of facts to regurgitate on assignments and exams truly believe in offering work to their students that really force them think deeply and carefully and not sticking to only those assignments that never get beyond the surface level of things and never get beyond the routine.

    Jonathan Groves

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