The High School We Can’t Log Off From

www.nytimes.com

Twitter is high school, says Jennifer Senior. (High school never ends, says Bowling for Soup.)

Clay Shirky, one of the shrewdest internet theorists around, has noted that the faster the medium is, the more emotional it gets. Twitter, as we know, is pretty fast, and therefore runs pretty hot. (Emotional tweets, research has shown, travel more swiftly than anodyne ones.) We often become creatures of our limbic systems when we tweet. Our self-regulation deserts us (been there); our prefrontal cortex, responsible for executive function and impulse control, goes offline; we become reward-seeking Scud missiles, addicts in search of a fix.
We become, in other words, teenagers, who are notoriously poor models of self-regulation — in large part because their prefrontal cortices are still developing and their dopamine circuits are pretty busy seeking stimulation. The psychologist Laurence Steinberg describes adolescents as “cars with powerful accelerators and weak brakes.” The neuroscientist BJ Casey deems them “more Kirk than Spock.”

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