The Effect Of Technology On The Brain: Multi-Tasking Leads To Stress And Fatigue

Find it difficult to ‘switch off’? You’re not alone.

Today’s tech-centric world can leave the best of us feeling lost and overwhelmed by the tidal-wave of information now available to us.

In fact, latest research shows that we are exposed to three times more information today compared to forty years ago. It’s no wonder that this barrage of information can sometimes leave us feeling a little frazzled.

According to one recent study, one third of us feel overwhelmed by technology.

The same study showed that this relationship to technology also had a direct impact on the way in which we experience our life as a whole.

These kinds of statistics really highlight the importance we have as individuals to ensure that we are adopting healthy habits in our use of technology.

But what is the science behind technology and its effect on the brain? And what does it mean to use technology mindfully?

The modern use of technology tends to sit firmly in the realm of the multi-tasker.

Perhaps we’re catching up on emails and the phone rings, or we’re caught for time so decide to eat our lunch at the desk whilst scanning the news... These are all daily realities for the majority of us.

In fact, in many ways this level of multi-tasking has, until more recently, been celebrated as the optimum level of efficiency; something we should all be striving for.

Unfortunately, this is simply not the way in which we were built to operate. Have you ever logged into your email, hit the ‘compose’ button and forgotten who you were emailing?

Here’s probably why: multi-tasking tires the brain. Doing multiple tasks overstimulates and fatigues the frontal lobe, the part of our brains which regulates problem-solving and decision-making.

Unsurprisingly, this slows down our efficiency and ultimately takes its toll on our overall performance.

Multi-tasking also leads to the build-up of cortisol, the predominant stress hormone.

And stress, as we all know, can reap havoc on the immune system, leaving us open to all kinds of infections and illnesses.

The science is clear – we can only focus on one thing at a time. When we try to undertake another task at the same time, we must ‘switch’ attention, directly impacting our concentration levels and performance.

Perhaps more alarming are those studies which seem to suggest that our interaction with technology has the potential to re-wire the way in which our brain operates.

Recent research has shown that the sound of a text message or an email hitting your inbox leads to the release of dopamine, a chemical activated when something enjoyable happens unexpectedly.

If this is the case, then we could say that over-using technology trains the brain to relate these feelings of pleasure with this kind of interaction, further amplifying our desire to engage with it.

The presence and growth of technology has brought with it a whole host of wonderful things. No one can deny that.

We have a world of information available to us at the click of a button, we’re able to keep in touch with friends and family thousands of miles away, we can even obsessively share photos of cats-doing-funny-things, if that’s what floats our boat (LOLcats anyone?).

Rather than trying to change or stop the presence of technology, we need to look at ways in which we can relate to it skilfully and not feel overwhelmed.

We must be mindful of the way in which we use technology. And here are our tips for doing just that:

Choose Carefully

Mindful Ways To Use Technology

Before You Go