The Apple-Eyed Monster & Popcorn Brain

The past 48 hours saw me, a usually even-minded individual, turning into a seriously foul monster. The source of my truculence and asinine behavior was my iPhone. Well, I take that back. It wasn't my iPhone so much as it was the fact that my iPhone was supposed to be getting this magical new iOS 5 update. Ok... So it got the update, but then there were problems.

Like, a lot of problems.

First it couldn't find the backup, so the restore was an iffy thing. Would it work? Wouldn't it? Then it wouldn't sync. Then it froze my iTunes when it tried to sync. Then my frozen iTunes chronically angered the very old man that is my 4 year old laptop. (Apparently a 4 year old MacBook is the same as an octogenarian.)

To top it all, everyone around the world was tweeting Odes of Joy over their love for the iOS 5 that was working seamlessly. Or, at least, they'd been able to fix their issues with a modicum of irritation. Mine not only wouldn't fix, but nobody could figure out what happened. Nobody had any clue what was wrong with my phone and my iTunes and my computer. Why me? Really...

Why me?!

Yes, I even took it to the Apple store on day 2. The Genius was baffled. He told me to go home and hope for a patch. 

Long story short, late last night I finally got it all to work. My life was back in order. There was an issue with a couple of possible corrupted files and stuff... Whatever. It's over. Let's not dwell.

Except, looking back over the last 48 hours, I was dwelling. Like, in a bad way. 

I have a confession: My name is Fire Lyte, and I am a tech addict. About 10 years ago, I lived with my parents in my small town where a computer was pretty much not worth buying, because you couldn't get internet. Well, you could, but it was dial-up. (Back when dial-up was still around $50/month.) Suffice it to say, because it was expensive, mildly useless, and expensive (did I mention expensive), we just didn't have any of that. My mother was the only person in our family that had a cell phone, and that was because she was on the road constantly for work and had a need for being able to communicate on the go. 

In other words, I remember that my life existed before I got a cell phone. Before texting became my primary mode of communication. And the more I reflect on my fairly juvenile fit-throwing from the past couple of days, the more I am deeply saddened by the effect technology has had on my life. Yes, it's allowed me a certain level of recognition and personal achievement. I mean, I've been able to connect with all of you amazing people. I've made friends and learned so much. I can get answers to questions faster than ever. 

But... A recent study identified a phenomenon in young people called popcorn brain. Basically, folks that spend lots of time with their smartphones or on the internet have less gray matter - in other words, they can't think as well. They cannot access information they already know. This came to mind this morning when I was getting my hair cut. I was trying to recommend the movie 'Stranger Than Fiction' - 2006 with Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson, and Queen Latifah. It's great. You should watch it. But, I couldn't think of it. I could picture the case. I knew the names of the actors and the plot. I could NOT for the life of me think of the title. What did I immediately do? Whipped out my trusty, working iPhone and opened up the IMDb app. I found the answer within second. 

The popcorn effect occurs because we don't have to know information. We don't have to remember details or have conversations where we ponder minute details... We can know them instantly, but the problem is...then we don't commit them to long-term memory. The physiology of the human brain is changing, because we're not using it. Because we're relying on these little screens in every corner of our lives to remember all the things we choose not to remember. No more long-term memory. Smaller vocabularies. 

There's hope! The more you read books, have verbal conversations with people, and refrain from relying on tech for answers and phone numbers and correct spellings, the more of your brain you can get back.

The phrase "My entire life is on that phone/laptop/iPad/etc." is all too common. I needed my life to function the way it always had, and I literally lost sleep because my iPhone wasn't syncing. I haven't had some great epiphany that's now going to turn me into a tech-eschewing monk. But... I might possibly up my book reading. And, I'll make sure to stock up on Unisom next time there's an iOS update. Also, I might just wait a day or two to download.

How has tech effected YOUR life? Answer in the comments below.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte


  1. I go through varying techie phases. Sometimes, it's all I can do to drag myself away from my laptop to go to bed. Lately, I've been avoiding the internet and have gone several days without my laptop.

    Then again, that's probably more a stubbornness issue as my loyalty shifts away from whatever it is that I'm "supposed" to be doing. If I need to read my textbooks, all I want to do is get online and find new apps. If I need to work on a client project or write a paper, all I want to do is read a book and take a nap. I'm a fickle fickle tech mistress.

    I totally relate to your story - my story is pretty much the same as yours, only not in Texas. In fact, I STILL live out in the boonies with a sketchy internet connection and zero cell phone service (in a mile radius of our house). So I'm not in any immediate danger of popcorn brain. I also read an insane amount of books and always have, so I think I'm okay on the gray-matter issue.

    At least, that's what the online IQ text results told me that I just took on my cell phone while typing this comment with my laptop while also watching TV and texting. ;D


  2. I spend waaaay too much time online. I do read a lot of books too, though. I'm trying to be less reliant on the internet for my entertainment - I am capable of thinking, and my job in academia/teaching does require it. My brain is mushy, though, and my memory is bad. But that's always been the way. I usually give in, allow for disability and take notes with me everywhere I might need them. As long as they're on paper, I feel better about them!

  3. Technical innovation took me from being a Human Resources Secretary in 1982, to a Senior IT System Analyst/Applications Developer when I retired last year. All without a college degree, or any college-level coursework at all. My skill set grew as the technology evolved and changed. I absolutely loved and devoured it all. Over 28 years, I was in the right places, at the right times. Unfortunately, I don't believe a non-degreed person would be given this kind of opportunity in the current business world.

    Long story, short: without technology, I would probably still be an HR Secretary, having had a much less challenging and rewarding career.

    And, as proof you can take the girl out of IT but you cannot take IT out of the girl - the first thing I did upon retirement was put my grocery list into a database.


  4. I really, really hate the iOS 5. I have two computers and I keep different podcasts and other things on both. Now I have to pick which library to sync with my iPod and it annoys me. Sure there a lot of nifty new features, but that doesn't mean I want them to dictate what I put on my iPod. Now I need to decide if I want to put all my stuff on one computer and take up a LOT of HD space or cut out some of what I listen to.

  5. Sometimes I am constantly online and other times I would rather paint or draw. It all depends on mood with me. When I want to do something mindless I am on the web; If I want to do something productive I kick on music and do some art or I sit around and read.


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