I categorize myself as old-school. I started surfing the social media platforms before there were any graphical interfaces to use. Back then I worked for Helsinki University, and by connecting to the modem-ring-set services at the University I could participate in endless quarrels on the rNews and PortaCom-platforms.
Already then, I experienced the so-called flame-wars and wrote hundreds of messages to make my agitated point. The more heat there was, the more one was stuck in writing the next one-liner. Later I have learned that by getting aggregated ones brain protects itself from possible traumatic restructuring needs.
An abundance of opportunities
We live in an abundance of social media platforms, that specialize in collecting our interest. The social media platforms exploit the human need of acceptance by optimizing algorithms that analyze key-words, memes, and smileys.
Where in the past, graphical interfaces were named WYSIWYG, or What You See is what You Get, we now seem to live in an alternated reality where What You React to Alters Your Future Experience, WYRTAYFE. This virtual and artificial construct of the reality is often difficult to recognize and separate from actual reality.
Our brains have evolved very little during the last 50 000 years
Our preservation mechanisms steering the brain make us easily lose concentration when we are confronted with external distracting signals. When something new catches our attention, the brain and body get ready to flee or fight due to its ancient setup. As a result, our body typically gears up the production of dopamine, adrenaline and corticosteroids.
As long as these hormones are in our system, the ability for complex thinking is temporarily lowered. We struggle to get back to the focus we previously had.
Many of us do daylong cognitive work. Research by Wiehler et al. (2022) that a longer continuous stretch of complex thinking ie. complex cognitive work, collects potentially toxic accumulation of certain metabolites like glutamate into the brain. Just 3-4 hours of complex thinking with minor pauses can result in heavy tiredness and brain fatigue.
Now if we combine the two concepts mentioned above, we surely realise how our brain is in a difficult situation. Devices like smart-phones bombard our senses with triggers from the social media and other concentration collectors. At the same time our body struggles with handling the load from complex thinking.
Mostly, the end-result is that we are unable to do what we know we should be able to do. We fail in thinking, because we have used all the juice and clogged our brain for the day.
My short list for protecting the brain
- Do not surf the social media in the beginning of the day as it makes you dumber during the latter part of the day.
- Turn off all alerts from your tablets, PCs and so forth. They eat up your concentration and offer little benefits for real.
- Do not try to multitask, because it only wears you down and you achieve less.
- Take hourly brakes. Going out for a walk will help maintaining your mental capacity.
- Do important decisions in the morning, not in the evening.
- Meet people in real life. Your brain functions and learns in a different way, if you participate in live events. You learn more.
Wiehler, A., Branzoli, F., Adanyeguh, I., Mochel, F., & Pessiglione, M. 2022. A neuro-metabolic account of why daylong cognitive work alters the control of economic decisions. Current Biology, 32(16), 3564-3575.e5.