Elizabeth's Blog: Rise of the Robots

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - You know what? I'm tired. I'm tired of all the ranting, the criticizing, the "Miley Cyrus is carrying our culture to Hades in a hand basket dragging our youth, gyrating, behind her." I'm tired of the emails and the 140 character stories that only scratch the surface of a topic, while Cyrus's one woman march to Hades get's a three page spread along with a slideshow on the home page of CNN.  If I hear the word "twerk" again in national news, I will not be responsible for my actions.

I'm tired of the constant patter of fingers on keyboards which is so loud at times I actually begin to believe it is rain on the roof.  I'm tired of the sharp, piercing sound of unanswered phones.  I cringe every time my phone dings and I swear my blood pressure goes up every time my computer beeps.

I'm exhausted from staring at Facebook feeds and Twitter trends, and yes, even the cat memes.  Even as I write this, my eyes burn from staring at my computer screen for six hours today while I surfed through endless stories, researching this study and that data.

What's worse is I don't stop.  After turning off my alarm clock in the morning, I immediately check my email followed by Facebook, Twitter and an app that lets me see what I posted on Facebook and Twitter this time last year.  I get into work and continue to check email.  While working, I pause almost habitually and click over to Facebook.

I actually carry around two cell phones at all times, usually with one in hand. I can barely hold a conversation without multitasking in some fashion: checking email, returning a text, painting my nails.  Sometimes, my thoughts trail off midsentence as if my brain decided that the current task of talking was not important enough to continue with.

Picture for me, if you will, the old antidrug commercials with the tag line, "this is your brain on drugs." Now replace the drugs with technology and re-read the first few paragraphs.  Guys and gals, this is your brain fried on technology.

Computers, email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, cell phones, smart phones, tablets- all of these devices are designed to connect every aspect of our lives and empower us to do more than anyone before.

Maybe not.

My mother laughs at me because I struggle to do math in my head.  She is convinced this is because I was bottle-fed by a calculator.  I believe her.

Technology has enabled us, but it has also disabled us.  Studies show that workers in the U.S. feel overworked and unsatisfied.  I recall an article I read in an actual paper and ink magazine that credited this to the fact that work follows us home with our smart phone- the doorway to, well, everything.

Another article in the New York Times looked at researchers who were studying the effect of technology on our brains. This line jumped out at me:

"Behavioral studies have shown that performance suffers when people multitask. These researchers are wondering whether attention and focus can take a hit when people merely anticipate the arrival of more digital stimulation."

Translation: even expecting an email could impact how you think and how your brain retains information.

It makes sense.  We can't drive and text without disastrous results.  Logic follows that multitasking on smaller scales can hurt performance. (Or in my case, sanity.)

The NYT article goes on to talk about how the brain recalibrates when you unplug from technology and take a break.   We need vacations; we need to reconnect to people in a way that does not involve wires or wifi.

Read the full article here.

Our health takes a hit when we are overworked and over stimulated.  Other studies show how everything from heart disease to depression can be improved with a break every once in a while.  Read more here.

So, this Labor Day take some time to unplug and take a break.  Dare to turn off the phone and sign off Facebook.  Work, pictures and comments about Cyrus will still be there when you get back.

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