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What Is Brain Rot And Why Is The Internet Talking About It

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Researchers call it a condition of “mental fogginess”, simply put, ‘brain rot’ is the effect of spending too much time online consuming low-quality content.

What is brain rot?

The concept of ‘brain rot’ was first introduced online around 2007, linked closely with what researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital now classify as Problematic Interactive Media Use.

According to Dr Michael Rich, a paediatrician and founder of the hospital’s Digital Wellness Lab, the term sums up the effects of excessive online activity. Users afflicted with brain rot tend to filter their daily experiences through the lens of online content, shaping their communication and behaviour accordingly.

Dr Rich told the New York Times, “Many of my patients see brain rot as a badge of honour, much like achieving high scores in video games. They compete for screen time as if it were a prize.”

Why are we talking about brain rot?

The discussion on “brain rot” surfaced when a TikTok user discovered the real-life origin of a popular meme based on a World War II-era illustration called “The 2000 Yard Stare,” showing a soldier’s haunted expression upon witnessing the horrors of war. The meme is widely used online to express feeling overwhelmed by internet content.

This viral image led to a widespread conversation about how internet culture shapes our worldview. Many now interpret everyday things through online references, which has led to suggestions about how taking breaks from screens can help gain clarity.

????”The 2000 Yard Stare” by????????Thomas Lea depicts a nameless real-life AmericanMarine at the Battle of Peleliu(World War II,1944). The 2000-yard stare: phrase used to describe the blank,unfocused gaze of combatants who have become emotionally detached from the horrors around them. pic.twitter.com/eXuiJp7UUq

— Soraia Vermeer ???????????? (@SoraiaVermeer) February 21, 2023

How to cure brain rot?

The issue of excessive internet use is getting different responses from experts and institutions. While some advocate for treatment plans for what they term “digital addiction,” others, like Dr Michael Rich see it differently.

Dr Rich believes that for some young people, especially those with conditions like ADHD, activities like gaming or social media serve as a way to self-soothe and feel competent. He argues that simply labelling these behaviours as addiction overlooks their role as coping mechanisms.

To prevent brain rot, the Newport Institute suggests limiting screen time, choosing positive content to watch and to enjoy offline activities like a hobby or any outdoor activity and connecting with friends and family.

 Researchers call it a condition of “mental fogginess”, simply put, ‘brain rot’ is the effect of spending too much time online consuming low-quality content.    

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