Author Tags: Non-Fiction
i-Minds (Inkwater Press, 2015) scrutinizes the impact the ubiquitous i-products (mobile phones, computers and gaming devices) have on our world. As promotional materials explain, “weaving through the hard and soft sciences, including history, research, and popular literature; media and industry hype; sociology and social psychology; personal observations and tales from over 18 years of clinical practice and research” this book “explores the influence of i-technology on children and families, friends and lovers, work and learning, development and brain function as influenced by our ever changing world and the technologies within.”
Dr. Mari Swingle obtained a BA in Visual Arts from Ottawa University, an MA in Language Education from the University of British Columbia, and a MA and PhD in Clinical Psychology from Fielding Graduate University. She is a BCIA Fellow (2010) and a certified neurotherapist. In 2015, Swingle won an Early Career Impact Award for her post-doctoral work on the effects of i-technology on brain function.
i-Minds: How Cell Phones, Computers, Gaming, And Social Media Are Changing Our Brains, Our behavior, And The Evolution of Our Species (Inkwater Press, 2015) $20.95 9781629012131
[BCBW 2015} "Technology" "Science"
i-Minds by Mari Swingle (New Society $19.95)
from BCBW (Autumn 2016)
Review by Beverley Cramp
he proliferation of the Internet and digital devices, such as cell phones and computers, is radically altering ways we communicate, socialize and make love.
Our behaviour is being affected because these technologies are changing the ways our brains function.
Such changes are the subject of neurotherapist Mari Swingle in i-Minds: How Cell Phones, Computers, Gaming and Social Media Are Changing Our Brains, Our Behaviour, and the Evolution of Our Species.
Swingle takes pains not to turn her observations into a generational divide wherein, “...the older complain of the younger becoming progressively stupid, rude, and isolating with i-tech at the expense of interpersonal or face-to-face relationships.
“The young, like any generation before, equally find their pre-i-tech elders ignorant of advancement, judgmental, invasive, and abrasive in their view, feeling they should stop pontificating and get with the times.”
Technological advancements affect all our brains—or i-Minds—in good and bad ways. What we need to do, Swingle advises, is to arm ourselves with information about how we want to manage these changes. She wants us to move towards “what we wish to become in this new, and yes, wonderful, i-mediated world.”
i-Minds nonetheless mostly examines the dark side of technology. After two decades of studying the impacts of increasingly more screen time, Swingle says we now know that for children, and youth, excessive usage of digital media is associated with learning disabilities, emotional dysregulation (meaning malfunction), as well as conduct and behavioural disorders.
In adults, excessive use (of screens) is highly correlated with anxiety, depression, sexual dysfunction and sexual deviation, insomnia, social isolation and compromised work performance.
“I am also starting to note some rather frightening connections with thwarted emotional and cognitive development in the very young,” she notes.
Social media and gaming can be addictive, like alcoholism or gambling. Addictions lead to obsessive behaviour that disrupts the life of users as well as those close to them. Swingle writes that i-addiction is now viewed like all other addictions, “...a problem involving impulse control regulation and an obsessive-compulsive behaviour.”
For those children and adults exhibiting mental health problems and social dysfunction, Swingle’s recommended approach is to limit time spent on social media, gaming and other screen-related technology. “NO i-media or screens whatsoever before the age of two,” she writes, “For most this is now four... For older children and adults, the healthy cut-off appears to be one hour per day. More than this is connected with increased anxiety, agitation, general restlessness, and related boredom when not ‘connected’.”
Other problems involve hyper-arousal due to the constant availability of incoming information. This leads to problems reaching a quiet state, so necessary for re-booting our brains and being creative and innovative.
Some people are more prone genetically to being negatively impacted by the dangers of technology.
“Anxiety and its little buddy stress are on the rise in adults and, most troubling, increasingly in children, adolescents and youth,” she writes. “It appears all of us are functioning in significantly higher states of arousal. Accordingly, the rates of anxious depression, anxiety, and insomnia are skyrocketing as can be seen by pharmaceutical sales and rates of prevalence in the general population.”
In short, the impact of new technology can be egregious. Bullying has always been around but with social media, the problem is immensely compounded. “Bullying of yesteryear cannot approach what bullying can today,” she writes. “Cyber bullying has a reach and resulting power that bullying in the past did not... In the past, the bullied could usually find refuge, for example, at home or in a different social circle. Today they cannot.”
The wide reach that technology has given pornography is another area where overkill is causing negative changes. “The Internet shows us more, much more, than what occurs in the average person’s life in an average week... more positions, more orifices, more people, more locations, more objects, more toys... just plain more visual everything. The resulting effect for many individuals is they now need this ‘more’ to become sexually interested and, equally important, sexually responsive.”
Swingle says the result is that many people prefer what’s online over actual real-life prospects. Consequently she devotes a whole chapter to sex and sexuality.
Swingle’s ultimate advice is that if you like i-tech in your personal and professional world, keep using it. If you don’t like what it is doing to your world, disengage.
The arousal born of screen time is like a brain drug. Over-dose at your own risk.
Dr. Mari Swingle is a behavioural specialist at the Swingle Clinic in Vancouver. She holds a BA in Visual Arts, an MA in Language Education, and a MA and PhD in Clinical Psychology. In 2015, she won the prestigious FABBS Early Career Impact Award for her contribution to Brain and Behavioural Sciences.
Beverly Cramp is a BCBW associate editor.