Has the internet made us stupid, a recent article in the Atlantic asks. The author, blogger Nicolas Carr, frets about the effect the internet has had on his thinking processes, on the way it has rewired his brains’ very circuitry.
Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going–so far as I can tell–but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.
I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet. Even when I’m not working, I’m as likely as not to be foraging in the Web’s info-thickets–reading and writing e-mails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link.
I’m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances–literary types, most of them–many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing. Some of the bloggers I follow have also begun mentioning the phenomenon.
I have the same problem and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I haven’t read a book in its entirety in ages, even though I keep buying them. I have piles of books at my bedside table which, when I got them, I knew I would devour in one reading. Months, even years after, I haven’t gone beyond a few chapters, at best. I stop and start and finally give up at some point, distracted by the flickering text and images on my monitor. Continue reading “The Internet Has Dumbed Us Down”