We now have research that shows E-mail makes us stupid! A study released this past April found that e-mail lowers our IQ by 10 points. Hewlett-Packard commissioned the study which found that the constant interruptions of e-mail, instant messages, and cell phones temporarily lower a person’s IQ. The 10 point drop is more than double the IQ dip associated with smoking marijuana—a mere 4 points.
Is it really e-mail that is the culprit? I certainly don’t so, at least not when e-mail is used correctly. E-mail when used properly is one of the best tools we have going for us. We ignore it and take care of other business. At some point in the day, we turn our full attention to our e-mail, handle every message, and get “in” empty.
On the other hand, there are those who check their e-mail constantly to see if anything new has arrived. They read and re-read messages without ever making a decision about what needs to be done with any of them. Their in-box grows with each passing day. I don’t doubt that their IQs drops and their stress levels rise.
Likewise, the cell phone can be a blessing. You can make calls from anywhere. The problem is people can track you down anywhere and at any time. (We have probably all had the experience of being in the restroom and hearing the phone ring in the next stall.) That’s where technology can become a curse.
Our challenge is to be sure that our technology makes our lives easier, reduces our stress levels, and functions as the wonderful servant it can be. Technology can trap those calls in voice mail, quietly hold those e-mails until we choose to handle them all, and beautifully organize our to-do lists so that our minds can engage in creative thought.
Technology—a valuable tool or terrible distraction? As technology becomes ever increasingly central in our culture, we had better determine its function.