The “always on” phenomenon may sound a little overboard to some people, but because of the nature of the Internet and the manner in which it is used there is really no denying it. It is in cars, houses and appliances, not to mention the expectation that some consumers have that whatever business they enter should have a WiFi connection. Some people do not care if they are in the middle of the desert, they want to have an internet connection of some kind. Considering that less than a decade ago this “techno addiction” was not considered a condition by the medical community but was more of a joke, its current prevalence in society should be turning more heads than it is.
After sitting down for a few minutes in front of a screen the brain, as well as other major parts of the body, begins to change how it operates. Slowing of the heart, blood vessel dilation, as well as blood flowing away from major organs are all part of what begins to happen as the body starts to prepare for incoming mental stimuli. This part of the physical reaction is actually normal, it is the next part, the continuous influx of that stimuli that starts to become worrisome. For short periods of time this stimuli is good for the brain, but over extended periods of time the brain actually becomes fatigued. After hours of sitting in front of a screen, of any kind, people have reported a feeling of being “drained”.
When a new friend on Facebook, or a follower on Twitter, is added to someone’s list, they may feel a sense of euphoria. This feeling is actually a type of chemical called a neurotransmitter, and is referred to as dopamine. This chemical is responsible for all kinds of different reactions that take place inside the brain. Both good and bad sensations release this chemical, so it turns out that the brain could not care less what actual activity is taking place when dopamine is released. Playing poker, taking that third or fourth shot, or even making it to that oh so amazing 75th tweet for the day, has the same effects on the human brain. The internet however, allows people of every age group, almost anywhere on earth, to always be connected, and therefore has the potential to be much more harmful.
Dopamine makes people feel like they want to constantly repeat these activities over and over again, even after the person performing the action no longer wants to do so. When an activity is being enjoyed and dopamine is being released, a person’s ability to tolerate noise and distraction also increases. So those who play video games, for example, can play for hours because they have a hard time being distracted by anything, other than what they are playing.
Remember that technology, and the internet, themselves are not exactly the problem here, but it is the specific activities that are involved which cause the addiction to being “always on.” Phones, tablets, and TVs all serve a purpose, are amazingly useful tools, and also have their place – a place that may need to have limitations. If someone has a hard time putting their phone down for more than five minutes, are obsessive about checking their email, or compulsively check Facebook all day, they may have fallen into the seductive pull of the internet and being “always on.”
Opinion By Phillip Schmidt