So would it be smart to throw away our smartphones? UCLA neuroscientist Gary Small thinks not. He's used the latest imaging techniques to see what happens in the brain when people surf the web. He says "your brain on a book" and "your brain on Google" are very different brains.
Dr. Small doesn't deny that these devices sometimes distract, but he says brain scans show they also can help sharpen our minds.
"We took a group of older people, and many of these people had never searched online before. And we just had them search online for an hour a day for a week. And we saw significant increases in brain activity, especially in the frontal lobe - the thinking brain."
Dr. Small admits he is "hooked" on his smartphone. Nick Carr got rid of his, thinking it was intruding on his life too much.
But everyone else we interviewed admitted to owning a smartphone.
"I love my smartphone," laughed Turkle. But she added, "I'm not worried about being fixated."
Turkle's advice on how to avoid fixation? Occasionally put the thing down, look another human being in the eye - and open up your mouth.
"Talk to your child," Turkle said. "Talk to your partner. Talk to yourself! You know what I mean? It's not about saying, 'Don't use your phone.' It's not about throwing away your phone. It's about, 'How do we reclaim conversation?'"
For more info:
- The World Unplugged
- Nicholas G. Carr
- "Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other" by Sherry Turkle (Basic Books)
- Dr. Gary Small