You are hereDigital overload prevents much needed downtime
Digital overload prevents much needed downtime
For every minute in the day, there's an app for it. Everywhere you go, people use digital devices to get work done.
"I'm always having my head down looking at the Blackberry screen walking from place to place," said CU student, Heather Morba.
Morba says she is guilty of filling the tiniest windows of the time with technology — helping her to stay productive and entertained.
But a recent study at the University of California, San Francisco shows that being constantly stimulated deprives the brain of learning new information as well.
"A lot of what determines what we learn and what we remember comes down to how much other interfering information there is," said Tim Curran, CU-Boulder professor of psychology and neuroscience.
He believes a potential benefit of downtime — of just collecting one's thoughts — is giving the brain the ability to consolidate previous information without having to process new information.
But iPhone application developers like Backflip Studios in Boulder have capitalized on giving users the ability to fill the smallest micro-moments.
"The most successful apps and app developers are those who understand that their users are not going to set aside big blocks of time for the apps," said Tom Blind, lead game designer at Backflip Studios.
Backflip Studios has created popular games like Paper Toss, Ragdoll Blaster and many more. On average, game apps like these are played for less than five minutes at a time.
"With Paper Toss, you could easily do one throw and put it away. It helps to make things like waiting in line at the grocery store or at the bank less boring," said Blind.
For Morba and other students, checking email and other apps keeps them from falling behind.
"If there's an important email, I want to get it as soon as possible," Morba said.
However, this may disintegrate previous learning and our attention span. Blind and Backflip Studios knows games and other apps aren't the ultimate filler to the day, and that downtime is still needed throughout.
"They're great for those moments when you're not completely ready to wind down yet," said Blind.
This quick distraction has changed the way we fill time. And as long as we keep the distraction "just a distraction" and downtime present, scientists believe new and old information will stay intact.