Is Information Overload Damaging Your Brain?by Rachel Adnyana
A recent study by Cornerstone On Demand, The State of Workplace Productivity Report, finds that the hyper-connectedness of today’s workplace is negatively affecting employees due to a constant flood of information. Surprised? Me neither.
The study suggests that the younger generation, so-called Millennials, Generation-Y, or people aged between 18 and 32, are the most affected by this new trend. 41% of of Millennials felt they suffered from information overload on a regular basis, compared to 31% for older generations outside of this age group.
Today’s emerging workforce has grown up in a world where the internet has always existed. They are internet-savvy, informed, and are changing workplace culture.
Only just fitting into the ‘Generation-X’ category (age 33-48), I am right on the cusp of this new generation. I was 14 when I first accessed the internet and 16 when I created my first website. I have witnessed technology grow from bulletin boards through AOL chat, ICQ, Yahoo chat, Myspace, Twitter, Facebook and all the rest. I remember a world before we had instant one-click access to entertainment and distractions, but those who were born just a few years later than me do not.
What is the impact of this constant stream of incoming information on our younger generations, and should we be concerned?
53% of Millennials reported using a smartphone for work, compared to only 23% of older generations. One could discuss whether that phone in your pocket is a link to the outside world or a ball and chain tying you to your workplace?
Even more worrying, another study published by the Royal Institute of Technology (RIT) in Stockholm, Sweden suggests that mental overload causes an excess of stimulation to the brain’s short term memory centers, which may eventually result in a reduction of information stored away for later use and impaired mental functioning.
Furthermore, it seems that increased exposure to technology which helps us consume information online more quickly means that we engage our brains in deeper thinking less often. Not only can technology and information overload damage our brain, it can make us stupider. More on this topic comes from Richard Watson, author of Future Minds.
Erik Fransén, Computer Science professor at RIT, states that when the brain is regularly exposed to social media browsing or other activities where a lot of information has to be filtered simultaneously, we are robbing it of essential downtime to process and store information.
The solution? Regular downtime away from the computer. Oh, and that means your smartphone too, something that most Millennials would shudder at.
Is spending time on Facebook worth risking brain damage?
Are you a Millennial? A Gen-Xer or Baby Boomer? How much time do you spend ‘connected’ every day? Do you make sure to have regular downtime away from your computer?
Image courtesy of unclebrice.com, retrieved from http://www.examiner.com/article/how-to-restore-a-sense-of-control-following-brain-injury, 23 April 2014, no modifications made