If you're a digital native, you should be aware that the internet may have partially rewired your brain in such a way that when you meet people face to face, you're less capable of figuring out what they're thinking.
No, I'm not joking. There's a significant amount of scientificliterature on this. Compared with people who didn't grow up using computers and the internet, you may be slower to pick up on nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, tones of voice, and body language.
That could be a liability if you want to work in a field such as consulting, financial advising, and diplomacy that requires face-to-face interactions. The trick, if you're looking for a job in areas such as these, is to be aware of your possible shortcomings and try to compensate for them.
Research on the brain's response to electronic media is fascinating, and not a little disturbing. On the plus side, it suggests that digital natives have higher baseline activity in the part of the brain governing short-term memory, the sorting of complex information, and the integration of sensations and thoughts — so, in certain respects, computers make you smarter. As if to underline that point, IQ scores are on the increase in the United States as the number of digital natives rises, and people's ability to multitask without errors is improving.
But other research suggests that excessive, long-term exposure to electronic environments is reconfiguring young people's neural networks and possibly diminishing their ability to develop empathy, interpersonal relations, and nonverbal communication skills. One study indicates that because there's only so much time in the day, face-to-face interaction time drops by nearly 30 minutes for every hour a person spends on a computer. With more time devoted to computers and less to in-person interactions, young people may be understimulating and underdeveloping the neural pathways necessary for honing social skills. Another studyshows that after long periods of time on the internet, digital natives display poor eye contact and a reluctance to interact socially.
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