So “brain hacking” is apparently a real thing, at least according to Anderson Cooper on a recent episode of 60 Minutes. Programmers and App developers are utilizing our brain chemistry and their algorithms to create more and more addictive uses of our phones and other devices. It turns out that a chemical called dopamine in our brain is activated every time we scroll or swipe looking for new information or to see how many people have liked a post we put on Facebook. It is no different than the feeling that a gambling addict gets when they pull the handle on a slot machine and wait to see if they have won anything.
At the same time, our addiction to technology, especially our smart phones is creating more anxiety in our lives. Here is an excerpt from Anderson’s interview with Dr. Larry Rosen about this:
Larry Rosen: We’re looking at the impact of technology through the brain.
Rosen told us when you put your phone down – your brain signals your adrenal gland to produce a burst of a hormone called, cortisol, which has an evolutionary purpose. Cortisol triggers a fight-or-flight response to danger.
Anderson Cooper: How does cortisol relate to a mobile device, a phone?
Larry Rosen: What we find is the typical person checks their phone every 15 minutes or less and half of the time they check their phone there is no alert, no notification. It’s coming from inside their head telling them, “Gee, I haven’t check in Facebook in a while. I haven’t checked on this Twitter feed for a while. I wonder if somebody commented on my Instagram post.” That then generates cortisol and it starts to make you anxious. And eventually your goal is to get rid of that anxiety so you check in.
So the same hormone that made primitive man anxious and hyperaware of his surroundings to keep him from being eaten by lions is today compelling Rosen’s students and all of us to continually peek at our phones to relieve our anxiety.
Larry Rosen: When you put the phone down you don’t shut off your brain, you just put the phone down.
Anderson Cooper: Can I be honest with you right now? I haven’t paid attention to what you’re saying because I just realized my phone is right down by my right foot and I haven’t checked it in, like 10 minutes.
Larry Rosen: And it makes you anxious.
Anderson Cooper: I’m a little anxious.
Wow was I ever convicted when I watched this segment of 60 Minutes and realized how creative our enemy is and how susceptible I am to his tactics. So, what is one to do when our world is creating technology to entrap and devour us? One possible answer is to put down the technology and pick up a good book. Just last week, Baker Books published a new book called The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch who is one on my favorite authors and an important Christian voice. I for one need this book as much as anyone else in my family and am looking forward to applying the advice he has to share. How important it is that we recognize the what our enemy is doing and choose to follow Paul’s important advice in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”