How many times has this happened to you: You're sitting in a theater when someone tries to covertly text a few rows in front of you and inadvertently fires a shaft of light brighter than the Bat Signal into the faces of everyone behind them? Or you're driving along a windy road and you notice that the person driving in the opposite direction is texting but before you can say anything, you've been eviscerated by your own engine shrapnel? Annoying, right? Well, if it's any consolation, if texting had never caught on as a trend, we'd probably all be dead by now anyway.
Cellphone technology developed so quickly and saw such a surge in demand immediately that there wasn't really proper time to test the catastrophic consequences of holding electromagnetic radiation directly against your face. As a result, early cellphones that were analog instead of digital (and required a lot more power) were just a little bit better for your brain than wearing plutonium earmuffs. The phones today are certainly better, but they're still not great, particularly for developing brains, like those trapped in the skulls of tweens.
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"You have no idea how bad it gets in here. The other day he wanted to think about string cheese for an hour."
In the early 2000s, cellphone companies were panicking because doctors were starting to point out that cellphone use had a direct link with certain brain tumors in kids. It was a conundrum for corporations like Nokia, because on one hand they didn't want to be remembered as the makers of a product that killed children, but on the other hand they were making so much money doing it. So they opted to say nothing and hoped for the best. Fortunately, the best happened to be a completely unrelated shift in pop culture where everyone suddenly decided they preferred writing gibberish to one another instead of talking. The minutes people spent with the phone plastered to their ear dropped dramatically, and so did the imminent threat of an entire generation dying from brain tumors, all because we decided it was too much work to actually speak to other people. We all deserve a pat on the back for saving ourselves through laziness, except you phone companies -- you were just content to quietly watch it happen in your forts made of money.
The Internet is a breeding ground of misinformation. It's one big game of telephone where even valuable information has been passed through so many hands and so many SEO experts by the time it reaches your screen that it's almost impossible to tell what's reliable. Even our online personae rarely line up with who we are in real life because we've all been gifted the opportunity to present the very best version of ourselves, the person we want to be. Unfortunately, it turns out that the best version of some people is a vaguely racist username, a profile picture of an equality symbol Photoshopped into a swastika, and a bunch of broken English tirades on YouTube clips of Loose Change. But the point is that no one is forcing us to be honest from behind a keyboard and so we rarely are.
But all those lies are having a profound effect on our brains. Just by maintaining that constant level of skepticism that the Internet demands is rewiring minds to be more efficient and better able to spot inconsistencies. In essence, we're all opening new neural pathways and making each other smarter through dishonesty. For instance, research shows that we're better now than ever before at spotting tricks that people employ to cover their tracks through bullshit, like sentences that start with "research shows" or vague, meaningless statements like "better than ever before." Above all, the Internet has taught us how to discriminate between a well-informed piece with reliable sources and, say, an elaborate April Fools' prank filled with bold-faced lies that sort of feel true.
"Wait a sec- Oh, you asshole. And I was going to smoke weed for you, too."
While the liars slowly turn you into a genius, you have a lot of opportunities to wield that power. You could, say, share an intentionally deceitful article you saw recently with the intent of catching other liars who won't bother reading the whole thing before offering their loud opinion on it. But, hey, it's your life and your big (handsome) brain, use it how you like.