When I read the Huffington Post’s article entitled “This is How the Internet is Rewiring Your Brain”, I’ll admit that I was curious to figure out whether or not there was truth behind the whole idea of rewiring. Then the article states its first fact; the internet may, and in some cases does, give your brain qualities of a brain belonging to that of an addict.
In a Crash Course Psychology video discussing trauma and addiction, Hank Green talks through what addiction/ dependence even means, before discussing the effects on humans. (https://youtu.be/343ORgL3kIc?t=7m19s from about 7:19-8:20). The video states that, although initially pleasurable, the behaviors of addicts will begin to interfere with ordinary life, work, health, or relationships.
Relationships. That part struck a chord with me. When I initially got my start using the internet it was strictly for the use of AOL email to keep in touch with friends after I moved eight hundred miles away when I was twelve. The purpose was to remain close to others, to maintain and perhaps even strengthen relationships already forged in person. Years later, with the same intent, I opened my own Facebook, Twitter, even Instagram accounts. I wanted to remain connected.
What if, ironically enough, by trying to maintain relationships, we’re sabotaging them? What happens when all of our social interactions are done via screens rather than face-to-face? Do we become impersonal and insensitive? Do we simply ignore all the formerly social interactions for those we produce on screens? Are we, by becoming addicted to the internet and the connectivity it provides us (the global network at our fingertips designed to create a global community), actually destroying the community we maintain with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances we see on a daily basis?
Why, when we have so many people around us physically, do we feel isolated and unable to connect? Is the internet stripping us of our ability to interact properly, and if so, why are we continuing on such a destructive path? Why would we continually engaging in ‘social’ media and internet lifestyles if we know they cause damage to social skills and interfere with ordinary life, work, health (mental or physical), and relationships?
In a similar 2011 Huffington Post article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joe-robinson/social-network_b_816108.html), author Joe Robinson discusses whether or not social networking destroys our social lives. There has been a social isolation trend over the last few decades and social networking has not done anything in the way of reversing this trend. In a study done at the University of Michigan, 75 percent of college students had lower levels of empathy than students 30 years prior.
If we’re truly addicted to the internet, as a people and as a culture, what, if anything, will cause us to wake up from this denial? The idea that by trying to build a global community we are encroaching upon our abilities to build and maintain a close-by community is a scary one to be sure. It makes one wonder whether or not balance is attainable, or we are destined for only one or the other.