10 The Echo Chamber Effect
One would think that social media would be an effective tool for bridging divides between differing viewpoints, but this does not necessarily appear to be the case. For example, Facebook’s algorithms tend to push users toward content which lines up with their interests, which is understandable, and their existing viewpoints, which is troublesome.
As a result, users of social media must go out of their way to seek out differing views from their own — and most do not. This effect serves to worsen divides by ensuring that groups on different sides of an issue are having completely different conversations.
Interactions between the sides usually only comes in the form of conflict. This has become known as a “filter bubble,” in which those who get their news mostly from social media are rarely presented with challenging perspectives.
9 Tech And Obesity
A great many factors have contributed to the rise of obesity in the United States. So it stands to reason that ubiquitous smartphones, tablets, TVs, and gaming consoles may play a role in keeping us more sedentary.
But a wide-ranging study by US-based Milken Institute looked at obesity rates in 27 countries and came up with a surprisingly consistent number: For every 10 percent increase in the amount a country spends on tech devices, there is a 1 percent bump in obesity rates.
With tech keeping us glued to our seats, we’re less active and we’ve changed our eating habits. Many programs by local governments and employers — such as free weight loss counseling and fitness centers — have sprung up to counteract this effect.
8 The Web Has Diminished Your Attention Span
While it may come as no surprise that the fast-paced consumption of digital media has resulted in a shorter average attention span, a Canadian research project funded by Microsoft likewise puts this into sharp perspective. Using detailed surveys and EEG brain scans, the attention spans of over 2,000 Canadians were measured twice — once in 2000, roughly at the beginning of the mobile era, and once in 2015.
The result: The average attention span had dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds — an astonishing erosion of one-third of our attention span in only 15 years. Although the report points out that there has been a corresponding rise in the ability to effectively multitask, it also points out that eight seconds is less than the attention span of the average goldfish.
7 On-Demand Everything Makes You Less Patient
The rise of YouTube and on-demand video streaming appears to be contributing to a culture in which few of us are willing to wait long for anything — especially entertainment. One UMass Amherst study looked at the viewing habits of over six million Internet users to determine how long the average viewer would wait for a video to load. The answer: two seconds, after which viewers began to abandon the video in droves.
The effect is bleeding over into real life. More and more large retailers are offering same-day delivery services while mobile apps aimed at reducing wait times for dinner reservations or cab rides are exploding in popularity. A Pew Research project examining the lives of hyperconnected adults under 35 concluded with a warning fit for a prescription drug: “Negative effects include a need for instant gratification and loss of patience.”
6 GPS Affects Brain Function
GPS has become a nearly indispensable aspect of everyday life. Many of us can’t remember how we ever got anywhere without Maps (hint: actual, physical maps), but researchers at McGill University have presented three studies which suggest that overreliance on GPS can actually be detrimental to long-term memory as we age.
This is because the hippocampus, the area of the brain which controls memory, is also associated with spatial navigation. Researchers found a higher physical volume of gray matter — and increased activity — in the hippocampus in their subjects who relied mainly on spatial navigation rather than GPS.
One neuroscientist involved with the study even suggested that relying on GPS may lead to the earlier onset of dementia and that avoiding its use when possible may help stave off cognitive impairment.