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The Brain Equivalent of Global Warming

The Real Danger of Digital Addiction

Nobody's proven that digital addiction rots your brain. Nobody's proven that gaming 18 hours a day is bad for you; that texting 14 hours a day harms you in any way; that spending 16 hours in front of a screen per day is in any way toxic; that emailing is less healthy than face-to-face communication; that tele-communcation sacrifices any zest; as we gradually replace human moments with electronic ones we are losing anything at all.

But we all know we're losing something essential, something vital. We all know we're losing a key element to the elan vital, the spark of life, to whatever it is that gives us the desire to get up and go, to run across the lot to greet a friend, to bound up the stairs to hug a colleague, to rush into the pub and down a pint with a mate (no, I'm not an Aussie, I'm just channelling my Aussie friend).

For the sake of convenience, for the sake of remaining seated or supine, we are giving up each other and replacing human company with screens, with electronic games, with habit-forming and ultimately addicting pastimes, time-fillers, time wasters, time-killers, which of course means, life-killers.

Leave aside the neuroscience. For God's sake, for once leave aside our current God, Neuroscience, and appeal to common sense. We do not need the finest minds of neuroscience to give us proofs they do not yet have on this matter. As Hamlet said, "There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave to tell us this." Our rapt and steadfast clutching to our screens is sapping the life out of us all.

Just as we ignored the warnings of scientists about global warming and now are beginning to pay the awful price we will pay for generations unless we take corrective action soon, so our minds are slowly losing their voltage, the vitality, their zip, as we finger keyboards and stare down screens while real life happens all around us.

But, just as we have the power to reverse global warming, even more so do we have the power to reverse our digital compulsions. Each person can do it on his or her own. Each family can do it. Each business can do it. Each community can have a town day, a screen-free day or weekend. Have a picnic day with no screen. A dance with no screens. Be like the Masters Golf Tournament where no screens are allowed.

Do not misunderstand what I am saying. I am no Luddite I love screens. I'm writing this blog on a screen. But for screens to benefit us, we must be in charge of them, not them in charge of us. This is key! This is paramount! Otherwise we have Hal at the end of 2001. Otherwise we have global warming of our minds.

Take this moment to refresh your life. Cut back on screens. Have a screen free morning. You'll be amazed at how good it feels. Try it for a day. Then for a weekend. When you come back to it, you'll appreciate it all the more.

This is one of the most significant problems we face today, especially because it is so unrecognized. So let's start recognizing it!

More from Edward (Ned) Hallowell M.D.
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