The Guardian’s Martin Wainwright reports on sobering new findings that if nothing else, should explain why I left the back door open, burned dinner, put my car keys in the freezer and just wrote the dog a check for $20.
The distractions of constant emails, text and phone messages are a greater threat to IQ and concentration than taking cannabis, according to a survey of befuddled volunteers.
Doziness, lethargy and an increasing inability to focus reached “startling” levels in the trials by 1,100 people, who also demonstrated that emails in particular have an addictive, drug-like grip.
Respondents’ minds were all over the place as they faced new questions and challenges every time an email dropped into their inbox. Productivity at work was damaged and the effect on staff who could not resist trying to juggle new messages with existing work was the equivalent, over a day, to the loss of a night’s sleep.
“This is a very real and widespread phenomenon,” said Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist from King’s College, London University, who carried out 80 clinical trials for TNS research, commissioned by the IT firm Hewlett Packard. The average IQ loss was measured at 10 points, more than double the four point mean fall found in studies of cannabis users.
The most damage was done, according to the survey, by the almost complete lack of discipline in handling emails. Dr Wilson and his colleagues found a compulsion to reply to each new message, leading to constant changes of direction which inevitably tired and slowed down the brain.
You have no idea how relieved I am to learn about this study, Tears are streaming down my face as I struggle to type this, such is the weight I feel leaving my shoulders. And perhaps there’s some self-recognition in there for you, too. Have you done something spectacularly stupid recently? Found yourself laughing at those AFLAC commercials? Seen “Sin City” more than once? Gazed longingly at a photograph of Suzyn Waldman? Paid your own money to attend a convention of music journalists talking about music journalism? Or perhaps you are the San Diego Padres employee who thought this would be a good way to pay tribute to America’s servicemen & women?
If so, don’t worry about it. Back away from the laptop, and get the bong out of its hiding place. You won’t soon recover your missing brain cells, but you won’t be losing them nearly as fast, either.