Popcorn Brain

Song Lyric of the Day:

We’ll end up numb from playing video games / And we’ll get sick of having sex / And we’ll get fat from eating candy / As we drink ourselves to death / We’ll stay up late making mixtapes / Photoshopping pictures of ourselves

The Limousines / “Very Busy People

A while back I read an article on CNN that introduced the concept of “popcorn brain” to me. It’s the term researcher David Levy coined to describe “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.” And when I read that, I realized that I had it. I had popcorn brain.

I had all the symptoms: I couldn’t just wait quietly in a line without surfing on my phone; I got online when I felt anxious (who knew that was even a problem?); I couldn’t watch a TV show without playing a game on my iPad at the same time while texting someone on my phone; I’d surf the Web on my iPad while simultaneously checking into Facebook on my phone — the list went on. So I had to force myself to really pay attention to what I was doing, in the most literal sense. Was I reading a book? Then I needed to not play on my phone and just read the book. Waiting in line for something? I’d people-watch instead, or, you know, actually talk to someone — in person instead of online.

And it hasn’t been easy. But I’ve improved some and continue to work on being more focused and present in my actual life versus my online life. And I can honestly say that Coraline has never been unsupervised because of my popcorn brain. EVER. Watching her closely and making sure she’s safe and well taken care of is something that I’ve never let TV or online activities interfere with — she’s been my number one priority since she was born. Plus, she’s just a really great, fun kid to hang out with who deserves to have her mom completely present. Hence the sporadic blog posts written late at night after she’s been tucked in bed (including this post), my neglected Facebook page (I’m not dead, guys, just not on FB a lot anymore), and my ridiculously long DVR backlog.

So what have I done to combat popcorn brain? I instituted a rule that when we are eating dinner at the dining room table, neither Rich nor myself are to be on our phones or iPads. We can stream music via Spotify or Pandora or use our nearby stereo system, but that’s it; if we’re streaming music, the phone/iPad is placed out of arm’s reach once the music starts playing. I’m making a point to turn off the TV when Coraline and I are playing, hanging out, or “doing art” as she calls it. I do my best to not hop on my iPad during commercial breaks when I’m watching TV (this one is proving to be a hard habit to break). And I’m resisting spending my lunch break at work surfing and am instead turning away from my monitor and reading a book. I also try to get away for at least one solo lunch date every week where I just sit and eat and read my book for an hour.

I still have a long way to go, but I think I’m on the right track. At least I can say with certainty I’m not addicted to being online*. I’m just really, really used to it.

Image courtesy of a Google search

*Here’s a Virtual Addiction test if you’re curious and/or worried if you have a real problem.

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6 Responses to Popcorn Brain

  1. Oh, our house has a bad case of this. I think I’m going to mention this to the husband because I’ve been thinking a lot lately that we need to get it under control. I seriously look at my phone every stupid time there’s a commercial on TV!

    • administrator

      Good luck with that! I often wonder if I’d nipped my bad habits in the bud early on, it wouldn’t be such a struggle for me now.

  2. rich

    you’re getting better at combating this than I am, that’s for sure. It’s definitely a struggle for me too…

    • administrator

      Thanks for giving me credit for my efforts. 🙂 And good luck to you — I know how hard a habit it is to break.

  3. I totally have that!!! I found that I can’t even play the sims (what me? Yes me!) without having a movie, or a sitcom on. Because I need two or more sources of visuals. I also am constantly checking my phone, texting, facebooking…
    As if my life depended on it.
    If I read a book, I have music on. The only activity I need total concentration for is writing. Still. And that’s reassuring.
    I’ve missed reading you. Life has been so hectic since I got the new job, and I got sick and still had to go to work (because who gets sick on the second week of work and takes off…)
    Will read the rest of the articles!

    • administrator

      Ha — I am either playing Plants vs. Zombies or Mystery Manor while also watching TV at the same time. It’s really hard for me to not do that, but I’m trying. I envy you being able to at least write in total silence — other than sleeping, I don’t do anything in total silence. :-\

      Awww — I understand how busy you’ve been lately. I hope you’re feeling a lot better now!

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