How the internet affects your brain

Forensic cyberpsychologist Mary Aiken describes in her work The Cyber Effect (2016) human behavior on the Internet and how cyberspace and the hyperconnected world distort our emotions and perceptions, much different from real life.

Immerse yourself in the screen of your tablet or PC to dive through social networks, read digital articles, consume video content, or chat. You type searches, make video calls, entertain yourself with online video games, consume digital press and even meet people over the network. On most occasions when we enter the virtual world, we are not aware of our perception of the passage of time or our behavior regarding life outside the digital dimension.

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Forensic cyberpsychologist Mary Aiken - whose work at the FBI and Interpol has inspired the CSI Cyber series - speaks to us in The Cyber Effect (2016) of the hyperconnected world and how inside we amplify everything from altruism or solidarity to criminal acts such as harassment, increasing our vulnerability. In this work, the author emphasizes that technology has penetrated our daily lives, even if it is not always synonymous with progress. On many occasions, our instincts fail in cyberspace, due to the change in the conditions we face.

Through research into this phenomenon, in which other psychologists such as Patricia Wallace (The Psychology of the Internet, 1999) or John Suler (The Psychology of Cyberspace, 2001 and 2004) have delved into it, we tell you some of the main effects that the Internet has on our brains.

5 consequences that the Internet has on our minds

  • Online disinhibition: On the Internet, we have the feeling that we can be who we want, a feeling that disinhibits us concerning the real world, both for good and bad, since the feeling of invisibility and the illusion of anonymity enhance this effect.
  • Dissociativeanonymity: When browsing cyberspace, we believe that most users do not know who we are, thus having the option to separate real-world actions and our personality or identity. On the one hand, we feel less vulnerable to open up and connect with other people - and to show, a button: the big pull that apps experience to flirt- and on the other hand, the less inhibited mental state makes us find people with more ideas and problems related to ours, thanks to communities that cross geographical barriers and tools like Youtube or the blogosphere.

  • Invisibility: We can browse the Internet without showing our appearance, reveal our age, gender, or physical appearance. This invisibility - which eliminates eye contact or body language as it does in reality - has an impact on "cyber socialization", an accelerated phenomenon of socialization fostered by social media and hyper-connectivity. Feeling or being invisible also causes us to minimize authority, less fearing the legal consequences or ethical implications of our actions, something evident in cyberbullying or trolls.
  • Distortion of time: As in Dalí's surrealist paintings, clocks yield to hallucinations, dreams, and distortions of reality, and time is distorted. In the Age of the Internet, our concept of hours and minutes changes. Aiken hem suggests that you disconnect the clock from the screen and test whether you can correctly calculate the passage of time. The network modifies our attention process and also adds the asynchronism of the visual universe, since internet interaction does not happen in real-time, and not having to deal with immediate reactions causes us to relax. Last February, psychologists from the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems at the University of Kent revealed in a study that we tend to underestimate the hours we spend on social networks like Facebook.
  • Dissociative imagination: Many have the feeling of playing or believe themselves to be an imaginary character other than the flesh-and-blood person and that exists only in the digital dimension, free of responsibilities and where social precepts or legal regulations do not arrive. This dissociation happens because we completely separate reality and the physical world - with its problems, routines, or obligations - from cyberspace, which gives wings to be "who you want" and create your own online fiction.

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