Internet is reducing our attention span

Using the internet is affecting our brains physically so we have shorter periods of attention and poorer memory, has suggested significant research. An analysis by Oxford academics, King’s College London, Harvard and Western Sydney University, revealed that smartphones have weakened our ability to memorize facts while manipulating us into believing that we are smarter than we are. The revelations resulted after scores of studies and experiments have been reviewed by a global organization to assess the impact the internet has had on our brains over the last 3 decades. It emerges as Ofcom noticed earlier this month that the average British adult now spends 50 complete days online a year.

The Shortening Human Attention Span [INFOGRAPHIC]

Dr. Joseph Firth, senior researcher at Western Sydney University, said: This report’s initial takeaways are that high-level internet activity could significantly affect many brain functions.

The unlimited stream of instructions and notifications from the internet, for example, motivates us to keep our attention constantly divided — which in turn may diminish our ability to concentrate on a single task. Experiments analysed in the study showed that people who spent their time constantly tossing between short online activities require greater sensory effort to retain concentration. It has been found that the unending stream of notifications and digital distractions have a strong impact on the brain, with those affected showing less grey matter in the cerebral areas associated with trying to develop focus and attention.

Other studies have shown that the internet has an instantaneous impact on our ability to focus, with people displaying a significantly lower capacity to maintain attention following activities such as internet shopping. Whereas offline behaviours like reading a magazine did not show such an impact.

Computing online has also been found to make the multitasking offline less successful. The study told reporters that Overall, the evidence available strongly indicates that trying to engage in multi-tasking via digital technology does not improve our multi-tasking efficiency in other settings – and in fact seems to diminish these intellectual capabilities by diminishing our ability to ignore incoming distractions.

The study provides evidence that the internet was becoming our external memory as we relied more and more on smartphones to extract knowledge.  Instead of learning new factual information, however, the brain tended to log in on the internet to find the information. One research cited showed a group of online searchers find information faster than another using encyclopaedias but were less able to correctly remember the information.

Other studies have shown that the Internet has also tricked people into thinking that they are smarter than they are because they have “blurred the lines” between their own recollections and what they can conveniently look up on their present smartphones. The study said that Studies have shown that online searching improves our sense of how much we learn, even though the perception of self-knowledge is interpreted only for the domains where we can ‘fill in the gaps’ for the internet.

The study indicated that in the future there could be an additional benefit to this internet reliance as virtual memory, as it could free up intellectual capacity for other activities-though it did not speculate what these might be.

Lastly, the academicians found that online as offline the social side of our brains was acting in a very similar way. However, we are placed under new stresses, such as the strong rejection that people feel of having social value quantified by the number of friends and likes they receive, as well as constantly comparing themselves to hyper-successful individuals who are omnipresent on social media.