Sunday, July 8, 2012

Brain damage

I'm positive that technology is changing my brain.  I don't just mean that I agree with all the studies that say that technology and the way we use it is changing us as a culture.  I mean me.  My brain.  It's different.

I have said more than once that I love my iPhone almost as much as I love my children and that's not far from true.  Right now, I'm plodding along with my old iPhone, 3 or 4 iterations old, waiting for the iPhone 5, just because I really love technology and want to have the latest.  (I wish I understood it better, but that's another subject entirely.)  I also love my MacBook Pro and my Kindle and I don't have an iPad but I'm sure I would love it too, if I had one, just like parents love all their children.

But I have to be honest:  reading blogs is not the same as reading an essay in a magazine which is also not the same as reading a chapter in a book.  Receiving an email doesn't feel the same as receiving a letter in the mailbox and writing an email doesn't elicit the same thoughtfulness that a blank piece of stationery does.

Mainly, though, I'm thinking about what technology has done to my attention span:  it has decimated it.  I have diagnosed myself with TIADD--Technology Induced Attention Deficit Disorder.  As far as I'm concerned, it's a thing.  Even as I write this blog post, my email inbox is letting me know that it has a new occupant.  A blog that I left half-read is reminding me to come back to it.  My Facebook is being constantly updated whether I'm paying attention to it or not, which makes me want to pay attention to it.

When I was a teenager, I could sit in my room for hours, copying things into notebooks or writing my feelings out in journals.  In seminary, I could study at the library in one chair at one table for hours, losing track of the time.  As a young woman, I could sit on the sofa and read without moving, as long as my children would let me.  I rarely turned on the tv and of course, it never occurred to me to look at my phone or check my messages or put the book down to see if my favorite blogger had posted anything recently.  I could sit in one place and read or write or think and never felt the urgency to do anything else.  After all, if anyone needed me, they would call me and if there was anything I needed to read, I could do it when I was finished with whatever was in my hand.

No more.  My brain is always twitchy, never at rest, always ready for the next thing.  Likewise, my mind is always cycling through the to-do list, the email inbox, the Facebook updates, the texts and the rest.  Like many people, I  check my phone before I get out of bed in the morning and when I go to bed at the end of the day.  I work broadly, getting a lot done, but not deeply, since I am constantly distracted.

I've decided to fight back.  One thing at a time, even when--especially when--I'm working on the computer.  Hard boundaries around when to read and answer emails and a new system about how to do that.  No fooling around on the computer when talking on the phone.  No messing with the phone when with people in person.  Dedicated time in the schedule for technology-free thinking, reading, thinking, working.  Renewed commitment to not texting or talking and driving  (Boo, if you're reading this--I don't text and drive ever.  I've kept that promise 100%.  I think about it though!)  I have to keep the phone by my bed at night because I don't have an answering service for work but I don't have to check it unless it rings.

This means confronting the reality that I am not indispensable.  The world does not need me in order to function.  I don't have to have the latest information or respond immediately to almost anything.  It's not all about me.

Maybe my brain will heal itself.  Maybe it will regain its God-given ability to ponder, to single-task, to plumb the depths and the heights of . . . well, just about anything.  If not, at least I'll be more present and less scattered.  That's something.


Electric Monk said...

TIADD. I LOVE that and am totally claiming it for myself. If I can sit at my desk and close every social network/e-mail/IM program and focus on work for 20 minutes at a time, it's a huge achievement. Normally I'm bouncing back and forth between topics, never spending more than a few seconds on each. My iPhone is permanently glued to my hand, to the point that I have to put it in the other room so that I won't be tempted to glance at it during dinner. My iPad gets so much use that it has to be recharged daily. And I've read three e-mails in the time it took me to write this response.

But I NEVER text while driving!

Janet/Women, Wisdom, and the Word said...

That's it! It's the pondering thing... that's what has been lost in these days of twitchy brains. Thanks for that insight...