Reading Blog 6 – September 25, 2015

“Your Brain Is Evolving Right Now” (p. 77-96) by Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan from “The Digital Divide: Arguments for and Against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking.”

Today’s reading continues on the topic of the brain evolving due to technological advances. Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan argue that the daily exposure that young people get to social networks and other technology stimulates brain activity, which makes their brain evolve into something new. For example, Small and Vorgan claim that digital natives are so accustomed to new technology because their brains are so easy to change and influence. They expand on the idea that Prensky brings up, which is that younger brains are more malleable. The plasticity of digital natives’ brains makes them more inclined to new techniques and skills.The authors also argue that digital technology not only evolves the physical aspects of our brains, but also the way we feel and behave. Technology is now a digital natives’ main way to connect to other people, and that affects their social interaction skills, and not necessarily in a good way. According to Small and Vorgan, social interaction has become more awkward because digital natives are having a hard time detecting subtle hints through body language or verbal messages. Since they’re so used to being in front of a computer screen, their social interaction skills are paying the price. Not only that, but the way that digital natives’ brain differs so much from a digital immigrant, that it is causing a huge divide between generations. Small and Vorgan conducted a study between digital natives and digital immigrants, and the results were just as they predicted. The results showed that the digital natives use different parts of their brain to access information on the internet, and that the rewiring of their brain makes it easier for them to use technology. Though digital narratives use a different part of their brain, the authors do suggest that digital immigrants can still train their brains relatively quickly. Therefore, the purpose of the authors’ essay is to show that anyone’s brain is malleable enough to adapt due to technology. Though it may not always be in a positive way, technology rapidly changes the way our brains function.

Links:

  1. “Does the internet rewire your brain?” – http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120424-does-the-internet-rewire-brains – This article talks about how the internet can actually be a workout for your brain.
  2. “When Children Text All Day, What Happens to Their Social Skills” – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/09/children-texting-technology-social-skills_n_1137570.html – This article talks about how young adults have difficulty communicating with others because they’ve been so conditioned by the internet. It talks about how they have trouble handling conflict face to face.
  3. “How Technology is Changing the Way Children Think and Focus” – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/201212/how-technology-is-changing-the-way-children-think-and-focus – This article talks refers to the fact that technology rewires the brain, and therefore the way children and young adults pay attention is vastly different from the past generations.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What will the world look like with young adults’ changes in social interaction due to technology?
  2. What can we do to make sure that digital natives don’t lose the ability to socially interact in real life?
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