'Tech is rewiring our brains' says ex-digital marketer
Tech is changing our brain chemistry and it’s vital that we put some boundaries back in place says Consciously Digital founder Anastasia Dedyukhina.
Dedyukhina, who used to work in tech marketing, started the consultancy to help people and organisations have a healthier relationship with technology.
She has now ditched her smartphone and this April she launched Focus Inside, the first mindful tech art and digital detox festival.
Dedyukhina says that tech is rewiring our dopamine reward system – quite literally changing our brains.
“For any kind of action that we perform the brain either rewards us or tells us it’s bad,” she told BusinessCloud.
“When you use devices a lot and, for example, get notifications, that’s how we get a tiny dopamine boost.
“That’s why when we get used to that we feel excited but also want to go and check again and again.”
In nature we’ve never had so much dopamine and stimulation before says Dedyukhina, which means most of the signals we’re receiving today are meaningless.
“This means that because we’re used to constant stimulation it’s really difficult to leave our phone aside and concentrate on something,” she said.
Tech is also having a lasting effect on our memory, she believes, and that can become a bigger problem for the way we learn.
“We tend to outsource memory more and more to tech,” she said.
“If I can’t remember the name of an actor I Google it – we’re not trying to remember.
“Some people argue this can free up humans to be creative but the human memory is not just storage space – it’s connected to how we learn, how we create, how we imagine and how we can stay concentrated.”
One of the reasons we have memory is to be able to plan for the future so we don’t make mistakes, says Dedyukhina, and this is in serious danger of being lost.
“We use memory because it helps create context and we learn from context,” she said.
“We don’t learn by reading something, you take the fact and then the long term memory arranges it according to the context you have.
“If you’re learning the word ‘green’ it will be arranged according to things like colours, plants and cucumbers.
“Then the more context you have the more neurons you can link to it, in order to better remember it.
“If you don’t use your memory to memorise things you don’t create context. When we know we’re more likely to find something online we actually don’t remember it.”
The effects of technology can’t be neutralised completely as it’s impractical to digital detox in the world we live in says Dedyukhina. However she does suggest there are a few things we can do.
“The main thing is to recreate the boundaries tech has removed,” she said.
“This means there should always be space and time when you’re using tech and where you’re not and that you decide for yourself.
“Try to minimise as much as possible what tech’s telling you to do and to take as much control as you can over it.
“Don’t have too many notifications, and if you’re opening email try a locking function so you don’t see things being added up. And always try put your device somewhere you can’t see it.”