Turn off, tune out

Illustration by Sagal Hassan.

Emmett Fleming
Guest Columnist

Since starting college, all of my papers have derived from web-based research — and I have written many papers. Eventually, it came to my attention that without a computer, I am lost. I am essentially dependent on, and most likely addicted to, computers.

Computers are excellent for their ability to unify abstractions and pull them all together, making research a lot easier. Computers beat the hell out of months of thumbing through books only to gather what a computer pulls in minutes, if not seconds.

For that reason, I like them. I now believe computers should be deemed the eighth wonder of the world. And although, research is much easier these days, their hypnotizing effect rewires the brain, leaving the user feeling lobotomized.

The Virtue Center for Art and Technology developed a report on the impact of spending a significant amount of time in front of the flickering screen. If undetected, the brain falls into a trance-like state. The programmer would feel a sense of pleasure due to the rise of dopamine experienced during computer use.

For college students, that means beware; computers sucker you in, pumping up your pleasure sensors from the joy of using computers, and mixed with that glow from the screen, creates a potent mix of neuro-excitement.

After reading this report I had only one thought: Jeez, that’s not good.

I reflected on my own computer habits and how they affect me. The discovery was stunning. After computer use, I would check and recheck, and recheck, and recheck my smartphone again, often for no reason. I genuinely felt entertained by checking my phone. Why? It seems irrational upon reflection.

I noticed almost anything else that happened in my life did not measure up to those frequent visits online or to my phone. Then I became a bit confused. Computers are a tool in my life, like an appendage. It seems as though I have become an appendage to computers, and I have been left with holes in my mind.

Even with holes in my mind, I realize we live in a great, big world. It’s comprised of everything from natural disasters and political intrigue, to leaves in the wind, to war — and I refused to accept any of it unless it came buzzing through a screen.

I could not believe this is who I had become.

In reaction to all this discovery, and all this thinking, I started a diet, so-to-speak. A diet of less computer and smartphone, and more books. The diet just started, and, already, I feel more mentally agile. I am having more creative ideas. My memory has jumped back to me and I notice small details and moments in life I passed over before, like leaves in the wind.

This is why, ultimately, I believe I have become more present in my life. So, my conclusion is this: Computers are the greatest thing since Swiss cheese, but their cost is great and may not be worth the full effect they have on us. Go read a book and hug a tree; it may be better for you.

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