There is no denying that the information age has been a hugely positive thing for global communication and the exchange of ideas and cultures.
You can sit at your computer, or just your phone, and be fed news from virtually any place on earth. You can learn about anything on the internet, constantly switching from one story or data-set to the next, but the constant information feeding tube might be hurting your brain.
According to the people at Big Think, our brains are simply not biologically programmed to multitask. According to Earl Miller, an MIT neuroscientist, we aren’t just bad at multitasking, it actually isn’t possible:
“Miller, an MIT neuroscientist, notes that our brains were actually not even ‘wired’ to multitask.”
Instead of gaining all the information on numerous subjects at a time, multitasking limits the amount of information that is retained:
“When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.”
Multitasking is not only hard to do, and not helping us learn anything, it is actively stressing us out.
It turns out jumping from article to article or tweet to tweet actually activates the human stress hormone:
“Multitasking was found to increase the production of cortisol, a stress hormone, as well as adrenaline, which can overstimulate the brain and cause ‘mental fog.'”
Having access to an entire world’s worth of information is one of the greatest achievements of mankind. More data has been created in the last ten years than in the entire history of civilization before it.
This is a good thing, but the constant presence of different information can be dangerous and unhealthy.
Not only are you not actually learning anything, you’re stressing yourself out.
So calm down, read the article, finish it, and move along. Do it for your brain.