The Twitter adrenalin shot and what it’s doing to our brains

This is a cool interview on Wired with Maggie Jackson about our attention spans and how we’re killing them with technology – Digital Overload Is Frying Our Brains. I like this bit:

“We are programmed to be interrupted. We get an adrenalin jolt when orienting to new stimuli: Our body actually rewards us for paying attention to the new. So in this very fast-paced world, it’s easy and tempting to always react to the new thing. But when we live in a reactive way, we minimize our capacity to pursue goals.”

It’s part of why Twitter’s so addictive, there’s a contstant newness, a buzz of another tweet, reply, DM, link or interesting person with whom your friend is chatting. I got into PR because I loved the news, and got a buzz off it’s literal ‘newness’; this natural trait in many media folk is exacerbated and fed tremendously by Twitter and other technology.

I know it gives me for one a terrible attention span, and is consciously something I try to manage. It’s one of the reasons I like blogging, and blogging for other sites like Londonist because it forces me to focus on a piece of writing. Other steps like turning off all notification alerts from Tweetdeck, work and personal email and closing tempting windows like Facebook help me claw back my brain!

I like this line from one of the Wired commentors too:

“I have come to not worry about those who can’t concentrate. They will be ruled by those who can.”

I think this rings true to many people I look up to professionally, who are often those who for all they can be as flittish as the next person at times, are generally able to delve into a task and immerse themselves properly in thought – playing into Maggie’s point about our diminished capacity to pursue goals when we live in a reactive way. Amazing ideas come from reactive thought, such as brainstorming, but the real work, the understanding and strategy comes from distilling that idea, process and focus.

I’ve no idea whether, as discussed in the Wired piece, we’re evolving our brains, but I know mine reacts to being set a few rules!



4 thoughts on “The Twitter adrenalin shot and what it’s doing to our brains

  1. Reactive thought is one of the most exciting processes to be a prt of, in particular if you’re in a brainstorm and 4 or 5 people are building on one idea and honing it there and then.

    I wonder how many PRs take a recording device into their brainstorms and actually listen back to how their ideas grew and what the processes were for making it happen?

    This is all part of the chemistry of the team of course, and the way that individuals think and react is subject to millions of variables which if tweaked right can produce amazing results!

  2. Insects and even plants can “react”, it takes a human to think rationally and creatively.

    That needs an absence of stimuli. But hey, keep clicking.

  3. nice post Jaz. i read someone else somewhere describing Twitter as similar to suffering from schizophrenia – all these little voices in our lives competing for attention. I think that sums up the downsides really well – it’s easy to get fixated, like you say. the skill is in filtering and harnessing the voices. oh my, i think i’m turning into david icke. from schizophrenia to messiah in one blog comment…. wow. look where twitter gets you….

  4. Haha, thanks for the comments guys. I think the stimulus from Twitter is great in some ways – similar to the brainstorm buzz you describe Matt. But when it starts to encroach on your whole working day, I for one can feel my abillity to focus waning like you say Steve!

    Roger – that is a perfect example of how a little focus meant you followed a train of random thought in your comment, haha!…But then you’re only here because of Twitter anyway probably… 🙂

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