Thursday, July 14, 2011

Popcorn Brain

AH!  I have at least 4 blogs bouncing around in my head right now, not to mention 3 that are in various stages of being written on the blog itself.  This morning I really wanted to write a blog about the restaurants banning kids under age 6 and how America (and the world) seem to treat kids like second class citizens to go along with my blogs Crying Babies Will Be Charged Extra and Sisterhood of The Crying Mommies

At the same time I really wanted to blog about an awesome documentary I watched the other night on Netflix about the intelligence of dogs and their relationships with humans  There was an interesting connection they made about breastfeeding a baby and petting a dog and the similarities that occur in the brain (for both the human and the dog) that I really wanted to focus on.

Then there was the blog idea swirling around in my head last night about the Epic FAIL parenting lines we all find ourselves using- think lines like "Don't make me come over there!"

All of these lead me to decide to finally write the blog post I have wanted to write for over a week now about Popcorn Brain, because obviously I have a serious case of Popcorn Brain going on right now so it was fitting.

What?  Never heard of Popcorn Brain?  Neither had I.  Once I heard of it though I knew that not only do I suffer from it but I am passing it on to my kids.

So what is Popcorn Brain?
Popcorn Brain is a real condition that plagues most Americans (and many in the world).  In a word it just means Overload.  We are overloaded with technology in our society and a new study form China shows that this overload, mainly from Internet and Smart phone usage, causes what has been termed as Popcorn Brain.

David Levy, a  professor with the Information School at the University of Washington,  was quoted as saying "It’s (Popcorn Brain) defined as 'a brain so accustomed to the constant stimulation of electronic multitasking that we’re unfit for life offline, where things pop at a much slower pace.'"

Too many in America are literally addicted to the constant stimulation that online activity gives, I am no exception.  You most likely have Popcorn Brain if any of the following apply to you:
- You know you should clean the house but the computer/smart phone seems to literally beckon you to come sit and play.
-You feel the urge, a need, a MUST to check your e-mail/facebook page/twitter acct constantly (dang easy smart phones, I check FB ever hour on it!  not to mention the handy dandy updates it sends me whenever anyone does anything on my page).
- You have multiple electronic devices going on in your house at the same time.  On any given day I will have the TV going (mostly as background noise), the computer on and my phone in my hand.  I have been known to be on the computer doing 1 thing (like blogging) and on my phone doing another (FB updates most likely).

To quote an article on CNN...
"This is your brain on technology"
-Does life online give you 'popcorn brain'?
"The human brain is wired to crave the instant gratification, fast pace, and unpredictability of technology"
The article above talks about the study in China which determined that over use of Internet/Smart Phones can actually  "activate dopamine cells in the nucleus accumbens, a main pleasure center of the brain."  The study also showed that, overtime, those who abuse Internet usage actually have less grey matter, the thinking part of the brain.

It's literally like a drug, several other recent studies have also shown that computer/smart phone usage, as well as watching TV, stimulate the pleasure area of the brain.   These are the same areas stimulated by many addictive drugs.

Have you ever told yourself  "Today I am not going to get on the computer/smart phone!"?  What usually happens shortly after that proclamation?  For me I actually start to feel anxious, like I just NEED to do it.  I can't help it.  It's like going on a diet, as soon as I tell myself I can't have a certain food I really want it. 

I didn't used to be this bad.  When we just had a computer I would get on once or twice a day, check my emails and FB (or Myspace, remember Myspace?!) and then get off.  That was it.  Enter iPhone and it was all over for me!

It was really fun at first, the constant access that the iPhone gave me but it didn't take long for me to realize it was also consuming me.  I told myself it was ok though, everyone else was doing it.  It has only been in the last few weeks that I finally admitted to myself that maybe, possibly I have a "slight" (HUGE!) iPhone addiction. 

What changed?
I realized my iPhone addiction was hurting all efforts towards gentler parenting.  SERIOUSLY!  Again, it's like a drug, your brain acts just as it would if you were on drugs. Like anyone else on drugs when someone, even your own child, comes between you and your drug usage you lash out.

So, this Popcorn Brain that seemed so silly and almost humorous when I first learned about it suddenly took on a new meaning to me in the last few days.  I put two and two together and it was like a fog lifted and I could see things clearly.  Every single time I failed, every single time I let myself go there, loose it with the kids, yell, scream and threaten I had the phone in my hand.  Or, in the least I was sitting at the computer.

My brain was on overload and I was checked out of life.  As I looked back I could see clearly why such small simple things that should not bother me at all would irritate the crap out of me.  Like when the kids run around playing, screaming and laughing loudly.  Sadly I would allow myself to get all worked up and yell at them to stop. 

Anytime the kids would ask for even simple things I would lash out, act as if they were so rude and demanding of me.  It was because I was preoccupied, I was "busy" as I told them.  Busy on the phone doing what?  I don't even know.  I can't even tell you WHAT it is I do most of the time. 

They would ask for things and I would yell back that I would "do it in a minute, I am almost done" Sometimes "almost done" would easily stretch 30 minutes or more.  Kids, who have even less patience than me, cannot wait 30 minutes for anything. Obviously they would come back and ask for whatever it was they wanted several times and each time I would yell even louder setting us up for failure day after day after day.

I excused it away as my "adult time".  I told myself (and anyone else who would listen) that I needed adult interaction and this was my outlet.  I am stuck in the house with four kids age 5 and under after all.

Yes, if used properly, it is a great outlet to vent on occasion and help myself feel sane but I was abusing it.  I was treating it just like a drug, my iPhone was my own personal addiction.

I have serious family history of addictions.  Growing up every single adult member of my family on both sides had an addiction to something whether it was "minor" addictions to cigarettes or more major things such as alcohol, prescription drugs and basically every illegal drug you could fathom.  This is not an exaggeration, I honestly wish it was.  It was because of this that I never even allowed myself to try any sort of drug, EVER!  I have never put any sort of addictive drug (legal or illegal) in my body and have a serious fear of using even over the counter pain medication because I do not want to become addicted.  I knew I had a predisposition to addiction and I guess mine has manifested in the form of the iPhone/technology addiction.

I also get this way with books, I have not read a book (except kiddie books to my kids) since Kimmy was born because they consume me.  I get so into them that I close out the world around me.  I don't eat, sleep, shower, nothing.   I just read and read and read until I am done.  Is there a such thing as reading addiction? 

Passing it on to my kids!
I know I am passing this addiction on to my kids because they all, even Sariah, are obsessed with my phone.  I have some kid friendly/educational games on the phone that I let them play and they are obsessed.  They fight over it, refuse to take turns and flip out when I take the phone from them.

Not only that but they are also addicted to TV, something I was as a kid (hence my need to have it constantly on all time as background noise).  Excessive TV watching was one of the things I swore I would never let my kids do (I was one of those "perfect parents" before I had kids).  Recently I have been trying to turn the TV off more during the day, something made easier now that we no longer have cable but I can see the the addiction is already there.  Even Karma will say things like "oh no, TB broken" when the TV is simply turned off.  When Teddy wakes up before me, the first thing he does is turn the TV on.  They assume if it is turned off there must be something wrong with it.  The very first day that I turned it off just because Teddy asked me if the power was out.

What can you do?
In the last few days I have set a time limit for myself.  I get 2 hours a day of Internet time.  Once I hit the 2 hours that's it, I am done.  So on days like today, when I am blogging, I pretty much use up all of my time in the morning. 

I have also set times to check my phone for emails/FB updates.  I allow myself to check it in the morning when I first get up.  At 2pm when we have quiet time and at 8pm when the kids have gone to bed.  I basically try to limit it to when the kids are sleeping now.  I have been doing this for a few days now and it works out really well.  I don't find myself walking around so anxious with a constant need to check my phone every 30-60 minutes.  There has also been a lot less yelling, tantrums and meltdowns in the house from everyone, myself included. 

Lastly, I have decided to declare 1 day a week Internet/phone free day. I chose Sunday because I do not get on as much on Sundays as I do other days anyways.  So that means no more Sunday Surf/Sunday's With Grandma posts from me.

A great little side effect has occurred since I started cutting back on the iPhone/Internet time, my house is REALLY clean!

Do you suffer from Popcorn Brain?
If any of this sounds like you, most likely you do.

There is a test online you can take to determine if you have a problem: virtual addiction test
Seems a little bit of an oxymoron to have the test that determines if you have a problem with online usage online though.

Now, I need to cut the txting too!  I used to never txt.  I resisted it for years but we recently added unlimited txting to our plan this Spring and POOF, total txting junkie over here.  I seem to become addicted to technology rather quickly, maybe that's why I resist using it.  I am technology intimidated, I don't like learning how to use new technology so I just resist it.  I never wanted a smart phone to begin with.  I even refused to learn how to use Netflix forever, only learning when we shut our cable off as I needed to be able to put things on for the kids during the day. I better never give in to video games, they annoy me right now and I have never tried playing them.  I am sure I would become addicted rather quickly if I changed that.

this technology obsessed (but working on it) mama,

P.S. Hmmm, what blog should I write next, it's only been about an hour, I still have time......  KIDDING, KIDDING I swear!

P.P.S. If you see me online for a long time, feel free to say something and kick me off!


  1. THANK YOU for your honesty. It is truly helpful. (:

  2. This hits close to home for me. I recently cut back on my computer time and my daughter's TV time. It makes a huge difference in the happiness level of the family!

  3. You could be speaking for me right now...I'm trying to limit it, my biggest issue is when I have to get online "real quick" to get a phone number or and address or something that should take all of 30 seconds and I "real quick" check FB or my blog stats, etc and "real quick" ends up being 45 minutes...*sigh* I've got to be better than this!

  4. FOR SURE!!! Love the post! I'm gonna repost it! Blogging is sooooooo time consuming and along with facebooking it's really sad the amount of time I sit in this chair at my laptop. I feel shame for it but I can't stop. I have good days where I can get away leave the house and be away for hours and hours (I don't have a cool phone so out of the house I'm out of internet) But then days I'm at home all day I'm popcorn brain all day.
    Food for thought or um popcorn for thought ;) heheh
    Katie Z

  5. Thank you so much for writing this. As a WAHM, computer use is essential but I definitely need to curb the iPhone use and stop using the computer unnecessarily.

    You've inspired me to blog about this, which I will do tonight when the kids are in bed!! Thank you for your honesty.

  6. oh yes, haha, all of my computer usuage starts off as a real quick "just gotta do....." and 30-60 minutes later there I sit still on the dang thing. Thats why I loved the iPhone at first because I could pop on for 5 minutes here, 5 minutes there. Sadly it quickly turned into 5+ minutes every like hour (or more)!!

    Imogen, I hope you come back and post the link when you do write the blog, I would love to read it. I am headed over to follow you right now though so I will hpefully catch it (and share it!).

    This is one of the reasons I pretty much did not blog in April, I kind of took the month off fromt he computer and only used my phone on occasion. I am not doing so hot today on my Internet time *FACEPALM*

  7. This is so me! I definitely have brain popcorn going on most of the time. I have too many creative projects brewing in my head and not enough time to churn them all out. I have to remind myself to stop sometimes and just sit and be still for a time.


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