Most of know that sitting in front of a computer for prolonged periods is bad for your body. A new book titled Your Brain on Nature argues that computers may also be lowering our IQ, making us less empathetic, and more narcissistic.
Authors Eva Selhub and Alan C. Logan argue the following:
- IQ may be lowering. James Flynn discovered that IQ rates were increasing about three to five IQ points per decade in the 20th century, due to better nutrition, schooling, health care, and other social factors. Unfortunately, according to Selhub and Logan, studies from different developed nations have reported a decline in IQ starting in the late 1990s. With the explosion of all things wireless—smartphones, computers, tablets, and video consoles—we’re inundated and distracted to the point that it affects our ability to comprehend information. Here’s an excerpt from the book: “In the course of a 40-minute study period, a simple texting exchange (less than three minutes) will slash a student’s word recall in half.” Another example: a single e-mail interruption will consume about 24 minutes for the average worker.
- Narcissism is skyrocketing. A recent study compares narcissistic attitudes in students between 2009 and 1994. Based on the answers the students provided, 89 percent more students appear to be more narcissistic than in 1994. High levels of narcissism appear to be correlated with frequent daily visitors to Facebook. Narcissism is a psychological condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-worth and decreased empathy.
- Empathy rates are decreasing. Many of us in North America are using social media to connect with co-workers and friends. Yet for all this online connectedness, we’re apparently not any more caring. In one study, the authors cite that “scores of empathetic concern…have dropped 49 percent since 1980.”
- More screen time may lead to higher rates of death. In a 2011 study of more than 4,500 adults followed over several years, total screen time was associated with a 52 percent higher risk of death.
Talk about a wake up call. I frequently spend more than eight hours per day in front of a computer. To mitigate this sedentary time, I try to walk or run several times a week. If this research is correct, I may be further curtailing my time online.