Is Twitter Changing How Our Brains Work Forever?

I am not afraid to try new things.  I was one of the first people I knew that had a BlackBerry.  I was one of the first users of LinkedIn.  I became a Facebook freak the moment I saw the power of the on-line community.  But Twitter is making me feel a little like that lady who wouldn’t give up her IBM Selectric Typewriter and use the PC.  This feeling is new to me.  I have always been the risk taker, the explorer.  So I have to ask myself, why haven’t I embraced Twitter, like the other 200 Million users who tweet 140 Million times a day?  Oh, I get the significant uses Twitter has in the world of recruiting (both for finding candidates and marketing employment). Its a great evolving tool for that. Is it that my brain works differently?  Then I started wondering if this new technology is changing how our brains work in general.

Recently, I saw the Twitter phenomenon in full force at ERE Expo.  Twitter was everywhere.  The breakout session topics were talking about it.  The keynote speakers were addressing it.  But most importantly, I observed that most of the audience was glued to their laptops (in unison like a symphony of keyboard clicking), while the speaker spoke to them (and the back of their lap tops).   I asked myself:  Doesn’t Twitter distract them?  Are they really concentrating…are they really listening to this guy?  Just the keyboard symphony was a distraction to me.  I don’t know about you, but when I am listening to a presentation, I have to really focus and force myself to pay attention to what someone is saying to absorb and retain it.  I usually take notes to keep myself focused.  I know that technology is changing everything, including  human relationships, the way we communicate and yes, how we recruit.  But, are we really able to retain information while we simultaneously text, Facebook, check emails and voice mails, update LinkedIn and tweet?  Wow, the human brain continues to amaze me.

They say that the Internet is changing our brain.  Neurologists and Psychologists are studying the human brain and are seeing that the brain is being altered.  They can see that the brain actually processes information differently on the Internet.  Just think about all the information we process in a given day these days (400 Billion bits of information a second).  Humans weren’t doing this even 20 years ago.  Think back to the time when human beings were thinking about survival and finding their next meal.  Fast forward to today where we are more interested in where someone is eating dinner tonight via Foursquare.

I am not an Anthropologist, but I have already experienced first hand how social media has changed our social interactions.  I can’t go to dinner, sit in a meeting or sit in a room face to face with anyone today without someone checking their smart phone/laptop at least once (let alone every time they are pinged).  It seems to be socially acceptable to keep your face down in your phone during dinner (my Grandmother wouldn’t approve).  Just the other day, I saw a young boy at a restaurant having dinner with his Mom and Dad.  He was watching a movie on his smart phone, while his parents ate dinner.  I get the video babysitter thing…but where’s the family unit here?  I’ve even seen couples in the same room sending IM to each other, instead of talking. (I admit it…I’ve done that, too).  But, where is this going and will we are able to go back?  “Beam me up Scottie!”

Recently I was helping a client interview a candidate for a very important job.  During the lunch meeting, my client started checking her emails on her smart phone and even tweeted what she was doing.  I know things are changing, but during an interview?  Are we so addicted to instant gratification, that we think this is ok?  Have we lost all sense of respect for each other when we are in the same room (let alone cyberspace)?  Can’t we put the phone/laptops down for just one hour?   Are we moving towards tweeting interviews, really? I know our brains are easily adaptable and change with our environment (history has shown this over and over).  I don’t know if recent changes in technology (especially Twitter) are good or bad for the long run.  But, I have to ask…is the human brain changing so much that we are moving towards a time when we can’t carry on a conversation with someone unless it is in @ and hash marks?

My brain hurts just thinking about it.  I guess, if you can’t beat them, join them.  I’d hate for my brain to be left behind.  Send me a tweet @dmeisenhelter or to @rivieraadvisors.

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