Pinky and Siri
Technology is all around us. It connects us to our friends, our favorite celebs, and even chicken nuggets
Our phones are great, and their goal is to make our lives as easy as possible, but if we expect them to make us happy, that’s where we run into problems. Everyone is looking for happiness, which means that social media and technology creators know that it’s in their best interest to figure out how to sell it to us. Sometimes this happiness works: our phones help us feel connected and important, but when we depend too much on technology to make us happy, it can actually become harmful to us. Here are just a few ways that technology is changing your brain:

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1. The Phantom Vibration
Have you ever felt a “phantom vibration” on your cell phone? That’s what it’s called when you feel like your phone has vibrated, but then you look down, and… BAM! No new notifications. Your phone never even vibrated… spooky! In one study, 89% of college students said that they have felt the phantom vibration before. This is because whenever you get a notification, a tweet, a text, your brain releases a little bit of dopamine.

We’ll write a post about Dopamine soon, but if you need something to hold you over, The Art Of Manliness and Psychology Today both have really great articles explaining how it works. For now, all you need to know about Dopamine is that it “makes you curious about ideas and fuels your searching for information,” which gets you to come back for more and more in a cycle of instant gratification that trains your brain to hope for happiness in likes and texts.

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2. It Makes Us Sleepier
Dr. Jean M. Twenge, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, wrote a book titled “iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of Us" (which, for the record, is the longest book title I think I have ever read). In her strongly-worded book, one of the simplest arguments that she makes is that not getting enough sleep is one of the major risk factors for depression and phones just happen to be a big reason that teens don’t get enough sleep. Be careful that your phone isn’t keeping you awake, because if it is that can also make you moody, and that’s no fun.

Dr. Twenge also points to some studies that say, “happiness and mental health are highest at a half-hour to two hours of extracurricular digital media use a day; well-being then steadily decreases, with those who spend the most time online being the worst off. Twice as many heavy users of electronic devices are unhappy, depressed or distressed as light users.” Our devices help us connect with friends, order pizza, and keep up with fantasy leagues, but if we’re not careful, they can steal our happiness. 

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3. It's Re-writing Our Memories 
One professor at Harvard (Daniel Schacter, if you needed to know) is afraid that technology is affecting the way that we remember events. He says that when we watch ourselves perform an event - singing in a talent show or scoring in a basketball game - we change the initial memory. This type of observation can be helpful when a person is trying to improve, since it offers a unique, outside perspective. But watching as an observer can also make us hyper critical of our own mistakes: nit-picks that would have been forgotten can become embarrassing failures. Next time you get the chance to watch yourself perform, take a second and remember the event again before you watch it. Capture the way you felt in the original memory before you relive it as an observer.

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4. It's Changing The Way We Feel The Feels
Another group of psychologists think that the accessibility of our phones can influence the way we interpret our emotionsThey say that, “emotions don’t just hold steady and get expressed through new devices. Devices transform them—teach us new habits, nurture new expectations, and model new behaviors, too.” We’re surrounded by technology, and the world outside is exciting and new, but the world inside is changing too. Our brains are growing alongside of technology, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that when we change, we change for the good.
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5. It's Teaching Us To Conform
The Law of Social Proof suggests that, when we don’t have information about how to act in a particular situation, we will do whatever we see the people around us doing. If you don’t believe me, try your own experiments; if you don’t have the energy to try it out, just watch this funny video by Brain Games 
to get an idea of how it works. Thinking through the way that technology influences happiness is crucial to make sure that we are in control. Take a moment to think about the things that bring you happiness in life. You don’t need to conform to the ways other people find joy, you have the freedom to be yourself and take charge. Technology and social media aren’t in control of your happiness, you are. As Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom once said, “happiness isn't something that depends on our surroundings...It's something we make inside ourselves.” So get out there and make some happiness!