Technology is rewiring our brain – time to clue in and log off - The Orca

Technology is rewiring our brain – time to clue in and log off


Studies show a clear relationship between screen time and general loss of focus.

As I sit and tap out this column, I realize I’ve had some sort of screen in front of me since 6:30 this morning. It’s not an unusual day for someone working in media – or really for most business owners, salespeople, or so many others.

According to a new study by market-research group Nielsen, North American adults spend more than 11 hours per day interacting with or consuming some sort of digital media. Four years ago, that time was nine hours, 32 minutes.

A recent talk I heard from Nature of Work’s Steve Rio made me re-examine my habits.

“This is time that used to be spent socializing with family and friends, enjoying hobbies and sports and simply resting in between work and other life activities,” said Rio.

Furthermore, he said research shows “these new technology habits rewire the human brain to be less attentive, less able to focus or retain information, and makes more emotionally reactive.”

How many times do we rely on Apple or Google Maps when we really should know where we’re going? Or open the calculator app for simple addition?

Those are scary facts for those of us on our devices so much because we’re precisely trying to retain more and make better decisions. Rio has looked at the research of personal device use and screen time on REM sleep and found it reduces both the quantity and quality. This is frightening because it’s precisely during that REM time that a large part of learning happens.

“This is not a secret in Silicon Valley, where it is very common for tech execs to write explicit clauses into their contracts with nannies banning them from exposing their kids to any technology, or even to let the kids see them using technology,” said Rio.

The problem is that so much of our workforce is built around the need for instant answers and constant connection. Our world now moves so fast that for many people spending most of their waking hours interacting with a screen seems unavoidable, but stepping back to look at the bigger picture, it’s dumbing us down in the long run.

Rio spoke about how just the sound of vibration of a notification on your phone – or even its mere presence – decreases your attention and ability to focus.

The irony is that those messages that seem so critical in the short term are negatively impacting our ability to do the big-picture work that makes the most strategic impact.

It’s one thing for adults whose brains are already pretty hardwired, but for kids whose brains are still developing, where the connections are still forming, it seems even more important.


Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at