2010: It’s hard to accuse the public of not consuming enough media—constantly reading, writing, texting, gaming, watching, reacting, in an endless circle of action and inaction. The New York Times, always concerned for the health of its readers, reports that scientists urge consumers to take a break, for the good of one’s brain.
“Almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it’s had, solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories,” said Loren Frank, assistant professor in the department of physiology at the university, where he specializes in learning and memory. He said he believed that when the brain was constantly stimulated, “you prevent this learning process.”
At the University of Michigan, a study found that people learned significantly better after a walk in nature than after a walk in a dense urban environment, suggesting that processing a barrage of information leaves people fatigued.
Even though people feel entertained, even relaxed, when they multitask while exercising, or pass a moment at the bus stop by catching a quick video clip, they might be taxing their brains, scientists say.
“People think they’re refreshing themselves, but they’re fatiguing themselves,” said Marc Berman, a University of Michigan neuroscientist.
1621: Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancoly was a digressive masterpiece, part of which detailed life in the burgeoning age of mass media. Here he bemoans the onslaught of books newly available to the public, but also recognizes that he, as the writer of a thousand page tome, is part of the problem.
[E]very man hath liberty to write, but few ability. Heretofore learning was graced by judicious scholars, but now noble sciences are vilified by base and illiterate scribblers, that either write for vain-glory, need, to get money, or as Parasites to flatter and collogue with some great men, they put out trifles, rubbish and trash. Among so many thousand Authors you shall scarce find one by reading of whom you shall be any whit better, but rather much worse; by which he is rather infected than any way perfected
What a catalogue of new books this year, all his age (I say) have our Frankfurt Marts, our domestic Marts, brought out. Twice a year we stretch out wits out and set htem to sale; after great toil we attain nothing What a glut of books! Who can read them? As already, we shall have a vast Chaos and confusion of Books, we are oppressed with them, our eyes ache with reading, our fingers with turning. For my part I am one of the number—one of the many—I do not deny it...