It is a fact that the Internet presents a lot of distractions, but most people even can't imagine a day without Facebook or Twitter.
But in a lecture at SXSW last week, University of Chicago psychologist Michael Pietrus floated a provocative hypothesis: Maybe the Internet is giving us all the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
"We are not saying that Internet technologies and social media are directly causing ADHD. But the Internet can impair functioning in a variety of ways that can mimic and in some cases exacerbate underlying attention problems," Pietrus cautions.
ADHD kids are impatient, restless, impulsive and easily bored. Adults with ADHD, unlike kids, usually aren't 'hyperactive' in the conventional sense. But they can be easily distracted and easily bored. They lose interest halfway through completing a task.
The Internet promises two things: instant gratification and an endless entertainment and information options. If you don't like one thing within the first five seconds, you can jump to something else. Hence, there is an exact relationship between the Internet and ADHD.
Pietrus says it is important to realise that pushing back against these symptoms requires a careful, intentional strategy.
Studies suggest that mindfulness and meditation could help people sustain their attention, even online; Pietrus also suggests techniques like expressive writing or "chunking," which helps short-term information stick in your mind.
"The biggest thing is to increase awareness and understanding of what social media and technology are doing to us. Once we acknowledge the potential effects on our brains, we can make better-informed choices about our actions and behavioural patterns," Pietrus said.