In his article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?,” Nicholas Carr writes that the relatively new experience of using the Internet and the technology that makes it possible is literally changing our brains, training us to think more quickly at the expense of engaging in deeper reading and thinking. When I first read the article and watched his video segment on ABC News, I didn’t want to accept what he was saying. But as I examined the evolution of my own reading habits, both recently and over the last several years, I noticed that my experience has been similar to the one Carr describes.
When I was younger, I would read anything and everything I could get my hands on. As an teenager, I’d stay up until 3:00 or 4:00 AM reading The Lord of the Rings or novels from the Star Wars expanded universe. When my parents forced me to clean my room and organize the books that were scattered all over my desk and bed, I’d sit in a corner and read until my mom or dad called up the stairs that they couldn’t hear me cleaning, at which point I’d move things around for a few minutes then return to what I was reading. In the last few years, however, as I’ve gotten more and more engrossed in the Internet and quickly-moving social media such as Twitter, I’ve noticed a change in my reading habits. I still read many books, both for school and for pleasure, but it’s hard, just like Carr describes, to focus on what I’m reading. Often I’ll find myself reading a few pages then glancing at my laptop to check for tweets, instant messages, or emails. More often than not, these momentary distractions catch my attention and, before I know it, ten or twenty minutes or more has passed. I think I truly understood Carr’s point when I was reading “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” and found myself checking Twitter every few minutes for updates about the New York Giants’ Super Bowl victory parade when I’m not even a big football fan. It’s not just me, either. I discussed the article and my own observations with one of my closest friends, and she told me that she has experienced a similar change in her reading and thinking. I suspect that countless others in my generation would report similar experiences.
To summarize, I agree with Carr that there is a fundamental change going on in the way we think, and one of the primary causes of this change is the nature of the Internet and the way we use it. However, the consequences of this change in our reading and thinking habits remain to be seen. It’s hard to say that this evolution is entirely positive or negative. Indeed, it’s probably somewhere in the middle, and it will take careful thought to ensure that the negative aspects don’t overwhelm the positive.