Thursday, 16 September 2010

Is the Internet Making me Stupid?

Dear Hubby printed out an article for me, entitled, How the internet makes us stupid. What was he trying to say?? Should I be insulted?

If I got my back up every time hubby tried to ‘help’ me, I’d be annoyed a lot more often than I already am. Then they'd probably lock me up. So with open mind I sat down to read this article, based on the book by Nicholas Carr called The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember. And it gave me a lot to think about… and read and, ah, remember. If I’m still capable of these things—keep reading and I’ll explain.

The book posits several theories. For eg: people who read text studded with links comprehend less than those who read printed pages (did you visit the link to Nicholas Carr's website or what?). As media presentations get more complex and visually interesting, less cogent information is ingested by the very people these presentations are meant to engage. Constant distractions from emails and other short message types has diminished our capacity to concentrate for long periods of time. Our brains are always searching for more stimulation, because we have trained them to expect distractions, to absorb shorter and shorter bursts of information (hello twitter) and as a result only contemplate this information on a shallow level. And here’s the kicker for the struggling author. People who juggle many tasks are often LESS CREATIVE AND LESS PRODUCTIVE than those who stick to one thing at a time.

Oh dear.

All these months I’ve been attributing my slump in creativity, my inability to complete what I begin to the demands of motherhood, the need to balance them with work and the general household crap. Could it be less to do with those things than the fact the internet has turned my brain to something with the consistency and mental stamina of a plate of pureed pumpkin? I’ve tried the whole ‘turn off the internet during writing time’ thing, but my concentration span is still minimal, even when the kids are out of the picture. I crave the interuption of email, the background noise of Dr Phil’s Texan wisdom, anything that will provide me with an excuse to leave the mental struggle that is forming a pretty sentence. I figured it was a pregnancy brain thing (okay so Cherub is two, but I thought it was a really long hangover). Perhaps I was wrong. Could it be that the Internet is making me stupid? And if so, what can I do about it?

I have no answers today, but this is something I’m going to be looking into, with a view to understanding it on a deeper level. A more than 120 characters long level. An uninterupted by pop ups, You Tube links and IM notifications level.

There will be more on this in future.



  1. I've wondered about this before. I find it really hard to sink into articles when I read on the net/computer because there's such a great temptation to click on all those shiny links. But I can read an in-depth hard-copy newspaper or magazine article or book off-net without problems.

    As for being distracted by emails, tweets etc, when I should be writing...gawd! That's so easily done. However, I also believe you have to be ruthless in avoiding them when there's work to be done. I look at it a bit like my mobile phone. I'm not the Prime Minister or head of a major corportation or anything else even remotely important, so whatever the call is about, if I'm busy, it can wait. With a bit of fortitude, it's possible to treat the net the same way.

    ...says she who's often very guilty of possessing the attention span of a goldfish!

  2. Thanks for your comment Cathryn. I did read it in full but have been too busy processing things to respond. Plus, I'm practicing being 'ruthless' with my Internet time. Cheers.