After taking a moment to consider the way I utilize the Internet, I find myself surprised at just how accurate Nicholas Carr is in his claims. Though it’s not the Internet itself that is making us stupid. In fact, the Internet holds so much knowledge it is actually inconceivable. The problem is that we have such a powerful piece of technology literally at our fingertips and we are not using it to its full potential. The amount of academia and research that are accessible online could feed your mind for a lifetime, but when we are in need of specific information we want it as fast as our DSL connection will deliver it. People seek instant gratification in terms of retrieving information, hence the popularity of the phrase, “Google it.” If I don’t know it, Google will introduce me to someone who does.
In this regard, we have become the “shallow thinkers” that Nicholas Carr warns against. We are only satisfied with speedy, straightforward results. All those social media sites people frequent, like Facebook and Twitter, are updated by the second. Not to mention, Twitter implements a 140 maximum character limit, making concise language crucial. I think that over time, our minds have acclimated to this kind of “search mission” and use it in other realms as well. I know that personally as I’m studying for exams I usually have to go through pages upon pages of typed notes. However, if I know what topic I’m searching for, I immediately hit “Command F” (or “Control F” for you Windows users) and type in the term. This allows me to jump through my information and find exactly what I’m looking for.
While this sounds convenient, it is also harmful to the learning process. Whereas in the past I would read an entire article, now I can simple jump around from idea to idea, and then attempt to draw connections later on. I’m not learning about ideas in the same contexts as I would if I read through notes entirely – I become solely concerned with a definition. Just like what happens when you search for something in Google. A list of results appears with a short summary of what each link has to offer, and then you judge which one best fits your needs.
The ability to jump around and navigate your way through dense information may seem useful, but Carr is also right when he says that this encourages distraction. Consider the thousands of results that are queued when you search something. You can explore several in a matter of seconds, which most of us do in an attempt to evaluate its usefulness or credibility. It’s these habits that transcend educational borders and mold the way our brains work. Yes, you can argue that this is a time-efficient way to organize and sift through information. But I find it hard to deny that there is something lost in this technique.