Internet Impact on Thinking

1 January 2017

The digital revolution has brought about a plethora of information accessible to anyone, anywhere, anytime, as long as they are hooked up to the internet. Considering the pervasiveness of the Internet in our lives, it is certainly having an effect on our brains. After all, everything we do, is related to our brain and affects it in some way, either positive or negative. In the article “Impact of Internet on Thinking” Alan Greenblatt touches various aspects of how the growing dominance of internet is affecting our thinking, our attention span, and how it is leading us to a world of temptation.

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He introduces the work of Nicholas Carr, the author of “Is Google Making Us Stupid” to support the ideas that Internet is having bad effect on our brains. Jonah Lehrer’s ideas are also introduced in the article, who thinks that Internet is keeping our brains active and also doing a great deal to improve our efficiency. This is true, but even then, we cannot deny the fact that the impact of information overload is having damaging effects on our lives.

Internet is having profound effect on our intelligence and our attention span; and the temptations of new technologies are leading us to a world of addiction. Internet is making our intelligence level go down. Before the wide spread use of Internet, it was brain’s work to store information, and to memorize the things, but now everything is stored digitally. Machines have taken up a greater share of the tasks, once done by human brain. Everything can be looked up instantly, so nothing needs to be remembered.

Internet helps gather up information quickly and easily. This rapid transmission and accumulation of knowledge and flood of information leaves people with no time to think. Internet makes it hard to memorize information because of the continuous influx of the competing messages, which interferes with the physical mechanism of the brain. The information can then only get to the short-term memory system and it cannot be moved up into long-term memory storage. Continuous stimulation of the brain prevents the learning process.

Internet talks only to primitive parts of the brain, the parts that do not connect to the deep thought and contemplation. When we read online, we tend to become “mere decoders of information. ” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged. Therefore, Internet use is only concerned with the superficial learning and no deep thoughts and no long-term memory storage, which results in low- level of intelligence as a whole.

Just because we have more information, doesn’t necessarily mean that the information is better. In fact, this information is being dumb-down and infantilized due to our ever-shrinking attention spans. Internet has brought about a super abundance of things to do. There are e-mails, texts, audios, videos, competing graphics, and hyperlinks to much more pages. Everything goes on simultaneously and our curiosity to know about what new is happening around, instigates us to keep switching from one page to another and we cannot focus on just one thing.

Even if we try to focus on one thing, the e-mail alerts, the status-updates, the pop-up advertisements etc. , distract that focus. This continuous stimulation to the brain to keep switching from one page to another, has changed the ability of the brain to function as it used to be. As a result it’s not just the long articles for which we have lost our attention span or our focus, but similar is true for the classroom lectures and other things which need our attention.

This problem was much less common before the development of technology, so it is clear that it’s not an inherent change in the way we are thinking now. It’s a change in technology that forces us to change our focus often. According to an example given in the article, Ellas Aboujaoude, a psychiatry and behavioral science professor at Stanford University states, “Studies suggest that people who spend a lot of time online have shorter attention spans”, therefore this change in our focusing ability is very much due to the impact of technology.

Too much of anything can be harmful and the same is true for the internet use. People get overwhelmed by the attraction of different websites and want to visit those sites again and again. Not only the sexual things (pornography sites), can be attractive or seductive, but equally seductive could be a very simple thing like an e-mail in-box. The thrill of getting the new message in the in-box can make the person keep sticking to it.

It’s like a slot machine, in the hope of getting some reward (even a juicy gossip can be a reward), often people make it a habit to keep checking the site again and again and later on these habits become so strong, that they take the form of addiction Excessive use, often associates with a loss of sense of time or even neglect of basic drives leading to poor nutrition, anxiety, irritability, This addiction can even cost the relationships and ork or schoolwork. Greenblatt gives an example of Tim O’Leary, the head of a marketing firm who says that he is tied to his laptop as it was an oxygen machine and he must carry it all around to keep breathing. So, people make such strong habits that they feel like they can’t just live without these devices and this is not anything less than an addiction.

Ultimately, it is clear from the article that these ever-developing technologies are not only beneficial to us in our everyday lives, but equally harmful are the side-effects. So, as the article states “With ever more capable technologies comes a greater burden to choose wisely and well”, it is now our responsibility to choose and act wisely; and to get the best out of it by eliminating as many negativities as we can.

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