By: Buddy Friedman, Calli Snyder, Ethan Evans, Ben Blachman
Recently, there has been an increase in technology use amongst every generation. Over the past 30 years, technology use has remodeled our daily lives. Individuals at every age are taking advantage of the limitless online information and platforms that allow people to communicate with each other. Technology assists us in processing, storing, and generating endless amounts of information instantaneously and efficiently. Because society is transforming to an online world, doctors and neuroscientists have begun focusing their research on how this new technology and digital media use may be changing our behavior and our brains. As of now, data suggests that constant technology use alters an individual’s brain function in both positive and negative ways.
Potential harmful effects include sleeping problems, depression and anxiety, isolation, and reduced physical activity. However, some positive effects show an increase in neural activity, self-expression, and improved education.
Dr. Carrie Wyland, psychology professor at Tulane University, contributed insightful information to our study regarding adolescent technology use specifically. She is trained in social psychology, aka the study of human social interaction and behavior, and has studied self esteem, self regulation, how we understand ourselves. Along with that, she has done ample research on wellbeing and positive psychology, and looks at students through the lense of social psychology. Dr. Wyland stated, “In our culture and our world, we have really grown to rely on [technology]. In the beginning we saw this as something that was potentially beneficial, but now it’s become something that can have a lot of negative effects. Both as you mentioned addictive effects but also anxiety producing. There is lots of evidence about how we use social media and screen use, especially younger age groups, can have some detrimental effects on both physical health as well as mental health.” She went on to discuss that technology use, especially with social media, is associated with increases in stress and anxiety and people’s “kind of constant, feeling of people’s need to connect.” From this, it makes it much more clear why people may start to develop signs of technology addiction. Especially with younger generations, people feel an increased need to keep up with others and avoid the fear of missing out. Dr. Wyland mentioned potential steps to take to avoid excessive technology use. She said one of the best things to do is setting time limits for how much screen time we use in a day. In regards to a research study, Wyland stated, “There’s a really cool longitudinal study that looked at asking college students to reduce their social media use to about 10 minutes a day, which was associated with a decrease in feelings of missing out and depression and anxiety.”
Interviews with Tulane students show that most people generally agree that they use technology too much and would rather spend their time elsewhere; however, the instant gratifications of checking a notification or going for a scroll on social media is sometimes too convenient.The sense of acknowledgement towards these issues is promising though because it speaks to the bigger picture that people are starting to pay attention to their technology use and in some cases take steps to cut back. Overall, with technology use continuing to grow rapidly, it is becoming increasingly important to take into account the negative aspects that technology presents us, and to always pay attention to our technology use.