Am I getting stupider?

These were my initial thoughts when I saw Nicholas Carr’s article entitled “Is Google making us stupid?”:

Sounds interesting. *click* Dumb picture. 7 pages?! I don’t wanna’ read 7 pages! I should just pick a different article. Well, maybe I’ll read the first paragraph…

These thought just go to prove that Nicholas Carr is right when he says that the internet is shortening our attention spans and changing the way we think. I just want to start by saying i thought this article was extremely well written and I agree with many of Carr’s thoughts. As a matter of fact, since this class began this has been a topic I have been thinking about quite a bit. I have been wondering why I have lost interest in reading, why I don’t particularly enjoy long-winded phone conversations. Is it because the internet has programmed my brain the desire short and efficient twitter-sized pieces of information?

Carr immediately confirms all of my fears. I can also feel it. I can feel my mind changing. I also stay away from long articles and books when just a couple years ago I felt lost without a good book in my possession. I have replaced journaling with blogging. I’m easily distracted and always hungry for more information. If I do happen to pick up a book I find myself Googling some new word or historical reference because, well, I simply must know!

In Carr’s article he cites Marshall McLuhan as pointing out that “media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought.” What a profound statement to reflect on. We saw how we, as a people, began to think with the invention of the typewriter, again with TV, and now with the internet. Carr then goes on to sum up the main concern: “My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles.” Is there no more stream of organic consciousness as the internet feeds a constant and seemingly endless flow of information; information that is useful and sometimes useless, stuff that is true and stuff that is false. Did we as a population lose the power to think for ourselves? To form deep and meaningful independent thought streams?

I know that I have regretfully watched myself put efficiency and immediacy above all else. The article argues that this type of mind set has turned us from thinker to decoder. Information is always accessible with the click of a button, all we need to do now is understand it. This is not to say that the internet and digital literacy is all evil, but the thought of Google creating an artificial intelligence is frightening. When does the robot overpower the human in this story? When do the roles reverse?

“If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with ‘content,’ we will sacrifice something important not only in ourselves but also in our culture,” according to Carr. So the important question we need to ask ourselves is “what are we sacrificing and is it worth it?” Will the advancement and intelligence of a search engine make us a better community of human beings?

With the average American spending 32 hours a month online this is quickly becoming a very important question to ask. The amount of time spent online will likely grow, but if it remains the same, the average American will have spent 16 DAYS online in a year and 160 DAYS throughout the course of 10 years.

How is the internet changing the way you think on a daily basis?


2 thoughts on “Am I getting stupider?

  1. I really agree with Carr as well because all the things he mentioned are things I have experienced due to using the internet and especially search engines like Google. Carr also states a study by Foreman which states that people in our era are “Pancake People.” He says that we are spread out thin and wide because we have a greater quantity of knowledge but the quality is lacking. By jumping from one link to the other we touch upon many different topics and works however are unable to delve deeply and read the complete piece of literature that we clicked on. Just like you mentioned rather than learning things in depth with detail we are just decoders and the more tid bits we know about a topic the better of we are in society.

  2. My mother and I like to think I’m just smart in a different way. In all seriousness, I understand Carr’s central claim, as you write it ” that the internet is shortening our attention spans and changing the way we think,” but I would like to challenge the conclusion he draws from this idea. Different doesn’t always mean worse, right? One thing you say has changed is that you are “always hungry for more information. If I do happen to pick up a book I find myself Googling some new word or historical reference because, well, I simply must know!” I’m not sure if you meant that to sound like a positive thing but it does to me! It shows maybe not longer thinking, but deeper thinking. Maybe the reason why we can’t read long articles is because our brain dissects it differently then before. We CHOOSE what we read more carefully then before because picking up one article might mean hours of site surfing until we feel adequately “full” and heck, I have tons of finals to study for. We are hungry for facts, not opinions, and whether or not it is true, an article that is 7 pages long reeks of opinion and very little information we actually want or need to know.

    You say that the average American spends 32 hours a month online as if it means that its a bad thing. If I were to say I spent 32 hours reading you might think of it differently when in actuality they might be exactly the same information being digested just in a different medium.

    I think Carr jumps too soon to a negative hypothesis and and believes “change” is synonymous with “Oh God help us, we’re all going to die!”

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