7 Ways Smartphones and the Web F*%k up Your Brain

7 Ways Smartphones and the Web F*%k up Your Brain

1. The Concept of my Attention Span Seems a Distant Memory

Having a smartphone and being on Twitter can give you the attention span of a toddler experiencing meth withdrawal. No longer is it good enough to wait indefinitely for an elevator or  sit through a commercial break. Oh, God no.   Instead of suffering the indignity of thinking my own thoughts and pausing for a moment of reflecting, I check my phone in a zombie-like reflex only to learn that I missed nothing- but it takes me 8 minutes of staring at my phone to realize that.

Sometimes I think that in the future AD/HD may be re-classified as a communicable disease that can be spread via smartphones.



2. I have Outsourced my Ability to Spell

I used to pride myself on being a good speller, now I pride myself on knowing that I can find the correct spelling for any word (and I mean ANY) on the internet in under 20 seconds, which is cool and all but I still confuse the similarities between the words,  similar and familiar; and harass and embarrass.

Is it scisors or scissors? I don’t know. But my phone does. Teamwork, right?


3. I’ve Outsourced my Short-Term Memory

I’m awesome at doing this in casual conversation:

Person 1: Hey did you hear about XYZ?

 Me: Yess!!! Well, I saw the headline and read the intro, but didn’t click on the story, what happened? 

Of all the euphemistic ways to say the word, “no” in our language, that has got to the pathetic.

I think part of the reason I do that, (i.e. say I “know” a story that I don’t)  is because I know that I am aware of the story and if I ever needed to find it, I’ll have my phone on me and I can just Google that story, or find it on social media. While I may not have read the story and actually put it in my brain, I have it close-by in case I ever want to. It’s like saying, “Oh, I have eaten that and it’s delicious!”, when really, you haven’t eaten it but it’s in your fridge in case you do.

In and of itself, that isn’t a problem, I guess. But I realized that I was confusing reading an article or “knowing” about a topic, when in reality, I just know OF that topic. What irks me about that is that, “people who think they know things they don’t”, is one way I define the word “moron”.

So I’m working on that.


4. I Have Out-Sourced Memories with Photos

I’ve read articles lately,  (ok, just the headlines, but still) about how many pictures we now take as humans (we’re still leading ostriches by quite a bit). We snap so many pictures, and take them so indiscriminately that we’ve attached less meaning to them because  we know they’re there (which sounds like my relationship with news articles).

Is there a a good picture of me and the ChicagoNow crew at bowling? Yeah probably, we’ve taken like 20, so I’m sure I’d have a favorite if I ever need one for a frame or anything. But I doubt I’ll need one to frame or anything because I know I have like 20 in my phone somewhere.


Funny how I shared the concert pic where I’m in the press pit, and not the concert pics where I’ve been in the nosebleed seats.


5. Keeping Up Appearances

I think people also feel obligated to use pictures to maintain their avatar of cool on Facebook and Instagram. Back when I was a kid,  upon seeing something cool, we’d all say something old fashioned like, “Oh cool!!”. But now people say, “Oh cool! I gotta (distance myself from enjoying this as a person and) put this on Facebook (to make everyone think I’m enjoying this as a person)!!”.

And when it comes to Moms, kids, pictures and Facebook forget it. It’s the most perfect vehicle for disguising a mother’s love as a passive-aggressive, controlled-messaged, media barrage.  What’s great about this vehicle is that one fell-swoop, people can both prove that not not only keeping up with the Joneses, but they’re doing so in cuter, cleaner clothes and with bigger smiles.

When I take a picture of me looking cool for the first time in a month and I post it to Facebook in an attempt to make you think I always do this, that’s not sharing, that’s misrepresentation. Sharing is when your friend is hungry and you tell them they can have half of your sandwich. It is not when you fake tan before posing between two hot strangers and uploading it to the internet.


5. Outsourcing Emotions on Facebook

Life used to be a give-and-take between us and reality, like this (crudely depicted flow chart)

Reality ——–> The individual
The individual ——-> Reality

The world happens to us, and we happen to the world.

Since I’ve been on Facebook I feel some women’s  people’s realities have become:

Reality —–> The individual ——> Facebook friends
The individual< —–> <——-> Facebook friends —–> Reality

It seems people like to unnecessarily shoehorn Facebook into this equation in an effort to combine crowd sourcing and coping, effectively saying, “Hey crowd of friends, can you shoulder some of the load and advise? I’m busy, thanks.”.

Or anytime something good or bad happens (as long as it isn’t mundane, cuz that would bore FB friends!) people immediately think, “Let me run this by Facebook braintrust first…..”

Does everyone do this? Certainly not, but some people do it and the point is that zero people should do this, as it stunts our emotional growth and externalizes our locus of emotional control. I don’t like when America outsources jobs to other countries, and I don’t like when people outsource their emotions to Facebook, or let Facebook’s “crowd wisdom”,  serve as a lens through which their view their own life.


Book Due 1/18 and clearly not returned and it’s 2/26. I love this book but I’m only on page 105, despite having sent about 100 tweets since the book was checked out. I renewed it once and it’s still late again.

6. It Makes me Over-Value the “Newness” of Information

With the popularity of viral videos, a new emphasis has been placed on being the first among your friends to share them.  You know how when you are the first person to tell a friend about a musician or a restaurant, and your friend goes on to like that musician or restaurant more than you, you always bring it up with your friend and essentially force them to praise your suggestion? Well, the internet gives you at least 100 opportunities a day to be a similar hero.  Whether it’s sending a news link, tweets, viral video, .gif, a funny meme, Facebook article, etc.

Now consuming the news has a one-up-manship feel about it. So I can read the news, then show my friend the latest article about a topic before he shows it to me! BURN!!!

You aren’t finding the next Antoine Dodson, Sweet Brown, Goats Yelling Like Humans or Farting Preacher on my watch, buddy!

Sadly, books don’t have that quality about them. Furthermore, it’d take me like two weeks to read a whole book and then all I could say is, “Hey, you should read this book” and link it to Amazon, but no one will read it because it takes like two weeks to read a book!!

So to compromise,  I put it on my bookshelf so I know I have it and it’s there in case I need it.  Then I go and check Facebook or Twitter, because if I don’t attend to those messages, something awesome could fall too far down on my feed and be gone forever!!!


7. They can Screw With Your Sleep

That aint even keepin’ it real.


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