Friday, March 30, 2012

The Cure for Brain Rot

My brain is rotting.

Though I have been doing better since I got my energy back, I've still needed considerably more resting time lately, and that has led to considerably more TV viewing time. I have been reading- about a book a week- but given the amount of time on my hands, that's no large accomplishment. I've spent most of my rest time with my good friend Netflix and his generous supply of TV series. And this has led to the inevitable slow brain rot, and forces the question that I've been wrestling with for the past year or so: is technology, specifically the ability to stream media from phones, tablets and computers, making me dumber?

I acquired an iPhone last winter, and an iPad this Christmas. Both have increased my productivity and become much more necessary to my daily routines than my previous phones or other technology. But I have also become increasingly spoiled by continual access to media. One of my favorite features of the iPhone is its speaker, allowing me to broadcast music without headphones. It's great for iTunes and internet radio, but I've recently started listening to audiobooks and podcasts this way, and that has become far more addicting than my favorite Pandora station. I used to spend my morning routine in relative silence, which helped me gather my thoughts for the day and created a sense of peace. Now that I'm addicted, I have an audiobook playing even while I'm in the shower. I often try to force myself to turn it off, or put on some classical music instead, but the pull of the voice coming from my speaker is too strong. This addiction may not be making me stupider- in fact, the podcasts are educational, and of course the audiobook is good literature- but it is intruding on my personal brain-processing time. 

The next step was discovering the Netflix app. We already had the live streaming subscription for our Xbox, and used it occasionally at home, but being able to take Netflix with me wherever I go, even if it is 3G-dependent, knocked down some huge walls for me. For one, I stopped reading at work. Now on the days that I take solo lunch breaks- a practice I enjoy, after being surrounded by kids all day- I watch Netflix while I eat. I used to keep a copy of The Fountainhead in my desk drawer for quick lunchtime reading. I haven't touched that book in over a year. I also use Netflix at home on a regular basis, especially since getting my iPad, which has a temptingly large screen. There is no doubt that my television consumption has increased greatly, especially during the "slow" seasons for network television. In fact, I'm not even aware of what's on our DVR right now, but I can tell you most of the television series that are available in Netflix. I set up my iPad in the kitchen and watch it while washing the dishes, eating snacks, and making lunches for the next day. I bring it with me to bed and watch it during my usual reading time. No wonder the pile of books on my bedside table has gotten larger lately. This addiction definitely IS making me stupider. I am spending less time on reading and thinking in general. With all of this media streaming, I'm keeping myself from thinking my own thoughts and doing more meaningful activities. 

I am not happy with this turn of events, and I want to make some changes. I probably won't be able to convince my husband to cancel our Netflix subscription, and after all, it can be useful. (I've noticed a lot of children's television shows on there too, for our future offspring.) But I need to guard against further brain lethargy. I've resolved that after I'm finished with my current Netflix series addiction (I have three episodes left) I will restrict myself to watching it only while on the elliptical, or if I have planned television time to spend. Otherwise, I'm getting back to the books. I just ordered a bunch on my Kindle (a piece of technology that is NOT rotting my brain) and checked a few out from the library. I may even set a book goal for the spring. I've also resolved to use my iPhone for more music, less audiobook/podcast, at least in the mornings.

The pull of technology is strong, but the risk of giving into it completely is a big one. Do we want to lose our brains to mindless television, and prevent ourselves from thinking our own thoughts 24/7? I know I don't, but I can't deny it's a big temptation. 

How do you handle the technology overload?

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