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The Emerging Crisis of Digital Technology on Consciousness and Mental Health Outcomes
A recent report by Taste, called Recipe for Health, asked a large group of Australian men and women to nominate the biggest reason to change their diet and lifestyle. The main response was summarised as “feeling better and having more energy”.
The results of the Taste study show that we are facing an epidemic of burnout in Australian society, which mirrors commentary in other western nations. An increasing number of teenagers and adults are reporting low energy and anxiety, and are ironically going online looking for answers to their dilemma.
At the same time Netflix announced a new viewer facility which allows you to watch their content on fast-forward. The two are linked as other research shows the human brain is being affected by digital technologies and their associated content such that we are losing our ability to focus and concentrate, whilst the hyper-stimulation of blue light technology streaming is affecting our sleep patterns and so in turn our energy levels.
The Burnout Effect
Experts tend to blame work stress and unhealthy lifestyles for the burnout effect. The Taste study revealed that the burnout issue spanned all age demographics, and both sexes. The study revealed that most burnout affected persons were turning their attention to their diet in seeking a solution to their burnout, but possibly the answer is literally staring them in the face.
We live in an era where a digital companion is commonly a constant for many teenagers or adults, from waking to lights out at night. The essential digital companion has substituted many off-line activities for digital equivalents, from reading the news to relating to others on a daily basis.
This orientation away from embodied face-to-face daily activity, and towards looking at and interacting with blue-light emanating screen technology, hyper-stimulates the brain via the visual cortex part of the brain. When done significantly at night it has the effect of disrupting the Circadian Rhythm of the Pineal gland, which regulates our day and night hormonal release cycles.
Over time, the blue-light emanation of devices affects the critical dopamine night hormonal pattern that leads us towards nervous system down-regulation and then sleep. We create a sustained “day” effect with digital technology watching, that then creates sleep delays and possibly then the onset of sleep disorders.
As anyone with a sleep disorder will tell you, one of the first noticeable effects of the disrupted sleep patterns is a loss of energy and a burnout effect. Given most teenagers and adults are emotionally co-dependent on their phones and tablets and relate significantly to them each day, it is not hard to see that the digital asbestos effect can easily arise silently in the lifestyle of the average person.
The Craving for Stimulation
Neuroscientists have noticed with alarm that digital hyper-stimulation on the pleasure centres of the brain tend to create a hyper-aroused addictive effect on the brain, much like you see in a typical addict. The brain craves more and more stimulus over time, and it loses the “delayed gratification” effect, such that viewers become demanding, bored easily, wanting constant stimulation, and are prone to channel jump as the brain loses the ability to tolerate quiet or “boring” periods between action or brain arousing hyper-stimulation scenes.
The half-life of everything has shrunk on the digital experience platforms. Movies and YouTube clips need to be limited to minutes to have an impact, the development of plot and character formation in long format films is being pressured by producers to be jettisoned as viewers find it boring or irritating to suffer through these non-action sequences.
Song writers report that they are under siege to get rid of long intros and riffs on new songs, and to focus on getting the catchy bit, the hook, the signature bar, within seconds of the song starting, as else listeners will station or track hop to something else. Likewise every advert, every news item on TV is condensed to small grabs, small bites, headline summaries, as the human brain is mutating and morphing towards an inability to focus and concentrate for long periods.
This banal and shallow streaming of content to audiences is literally the opiate for the masses. It’s a massive dumbing down to the community that no longer thinks beyond slogans and who cannot converse or look at each other at cafes and restaurants any longer, as they have nothing to say, and no ability to stay present to each other.
They simply need their digital addiction smartphone or tablet companion with them instead, forever triangulating and deadening whatever off-line real embodied experience they could or are trying to claim to be having. Couples are finding it harder to have intimacy and hold intimate eye contact, as they watch porn together in the bedroom while having sex, so their attention is on the stimulation of the digital device and its content, and not on the sensual feel, connection, and experience of two people together, two bodies in vulnerable touch and connection.
Every aspect of life is getting stripped down as this trend continues over the long term. The digital streaming giants want it that way. They want you addicted to their platforms, devices, content and so they used predictive algorithms and personalised next content to watch suggestions, like the corner drug dealer offering you a free try of some new drug.
As Geoff Snowden proclaimed at the 2019 Web Summit in Lisbon, the big tech companies run a business model of abuse that creates addicts out of you and me, and steals our personal data, our streaming behavioural choices data, and then works out how to enslave us to their platforms by consuming with an increasing spend by us over time to keep getting our hyper-aroused addictive payoffs.
Welcome to Digital Asbestos, for in 30 years we may look back, if we are capable of, and able to, and realise the destructive pervasive nature of this commonplace technology, has had a profound negative effect on the world and us humans, in the same way the wonder product blue asbestos, was embraced for 70 years before it became publicly known that it was a toxic and dangerous product for human health.
The Digital Asbestos effect on our lives is not the full story. If you add this element to a stressful work life, time shortages and pressures at home as a student, wife, husband or partner, then a tipping point must be reached where a combination of lifestyle elements create a collective burnout outcome.
There is still a lack of serious attention on the part of many regarding the impact of digital technology on their quality of life, but as we write our series of Digital Asbestos articles, we hope to create a heightened awareness of what these technologies represent to teenagers and adults in terms of impacts on their various dimensions of consciousness and health.