When I first opened this article, the first thing I did was assess its length, groan, and read the first comment: “I’m not sure that I can agree with your assessment that the internet overrides the ability to concentrate on a lengthy written article” (belhambone).
I giggled to myself at the irony and scrolled up and started reading. After the first paragraph I checked an IM from Skype, after the second I checked my Facebook, without even thinking about it. This all was case in point that the internet is indeed making us “stupid,” cutting our attention spans to the point of barely existent. I thought this was extremely accurate and a nice metaphor:
They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.
My attention span has always been sub-par, but I have also always been adept in reading. When I was younger, and not so much on the internet, I would sit down and read for hours. Now I can only read a few chapters at a time if I’m lucky, distracted by a text message, or I’ll throw my book aside to check my Facebook, or to Google a thought I had while my mind was wandering away from the story. Most of the time, though, I just don’t read books anymore. The internet is such a wealth of information and knowledge, with such stupid and distracting content, that it is so easy to get lost in it and watch hours tick by.
I admire the point he brings up in which we not only have changed what we read, but how we read. While I’m reading novels I do read every word, every line. However, on the internet if I’m reading an article, journal, anything really, I tend to skim it, not catching every word but just enough to get the general gist of what it is trying to tell me.
Is Google making us stupid? Slower, maybe. With less of an attention span, I think so. But it also provides so much information that was previously unavailable to most, packed into a laptop, PC, tablet or cell phone. Time saved scavenging through libraries, encyclopedias and books with just one quick Google query with keywords, searching through catalogues of pages online. It’s like asking: Are calculators making us stupid? Not necessarily; they just make us process information faster, just like the internet does, catalyzing learning development. It can even be argued that Google makes us smarter, speeding up our learning process by giving us readily available information to absorb and teach others.
I think the internet is just changing our definition of “stupid.” While we may need to “just Google something really quickly”, we are actually capable of doing that nearly anywhere we are. We comprehend the results with ease, rather than wonder until we could get to a library or another source of information. We are learning in that way. While we are not reading everything completely anymore due to our shortened attention spans, we have evolved: we learned to skim through things to pick out main points, allowing us to process more and more information and quicker than ever before.