Is there a time to unplug our “acceptable addictions?”

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Five Minute Friday. Acceptable Addiction?
by Joy Dombrow

Oregon Blogger

A fairly regular feature (I hope), Five Minute Friday is where I simply pick a topic that’s on my mind, set a timer, start with “Go”, write about it for five (although today took me fifteen) minutes, and end with “Done”. Editing is minimal and sometimes the thoughts are random, but it is a fun writing discipline. Enjoy!

Go.

Technology is changing my brain, and I am not sure that I like it.

I am talking about the physical construct of my mind.

The way it operates.

The wiring.

The chemicals that surge through the gray matter throughout the day.

I think it’s changing me.

Early on I read Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman and I am adamant about the effects of television on our thought processes and society, but we are also techonologizing ourselves to death. Not that that is a word, but it should be.

First of all, I think I have become much more ADD. Could technology be the cause of the rise of such a disorder? Maybe. Probably. We have constant stops and starts to our day as the email sounds off in the middle of our work, or we hear the ding of the text message, or the phone interrupts us no matter where we may be. There is no where to get away from it. The constant stops and starts that technology causes retrains our brains to think in terms of focusing for only minutes, instead of long and productive chunks of time. We think in tweets, facebook lines, and text script. It’s crazy.

Moreover, this constant stream of information induces more and more stress. Not only do we have an increased work load with more people having access to us and more expectation of productivity, there is a constant adrenaline pump coming in through our phones and computers. Every time we get an incoming message a little dose of adrenaline surges to our brain due to the decisions we are forced to make. Think of it like a little fight/flight response. It’s not so much that these interruptions are large crises, but rather they are like the stress of Chinese water torture…a constant drip, drip, drip to us all day long with no chance for recovery time for we rarely turn it all off and our bodies must hold up under the weight of this unintended life.

The funny is, in some ways, we like it. We go back for more. I tell myself over and over that I am going to “unplug”…not check my email for the 400th time…not jump when I hear a text come in. But it’s addictive. Literally. It’s like a trained rat succumbing to intermittent reinforcement. That email might mean more work, but it also might be an opportunity. It might be an encouraging note. Anything good means that my brain gets a little dose of dopamine as a reward and that possibility is too good to pass up. My brain has learned to crave it.

Yet productive technology seems so good. Everyone knows that television is unacceptable because it is viewed as pure luxury, but although computers can look productive, they also have the capacity to be a huge time waster. Procrastination under the guise of work. I don’t have to do right now what really needs to get done as long as I seem to be producing. No one will be the wiser. I feel okay with that.

Like right now for example. Just sayin‘.

I don’t know what all this means for me, but I am growing in my awareness that technology can take over my brain if I let it. Like food, or money, or materialism it can master me if I am not intentional in it’s use. I have a long way to go, but I am thankful for God encouraged moments of solitude, meditation, and prayer. It takes my brain off of the dopamine and adrenaline drip and allows me just to be refreshed. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

Excuse me while I go turn off my email now. I’m convicted.
Done.