How Internet Impacts the Way we Absorb and Retain
The invention of the global connection network system is seen as one of the most important in the history of mankind. It connects people through phones, satellites, and cables. It seems clear that the internet and its astonishing availability of information has become firmly established in our life. The internet is a huge part of our society and has a profound effect on our life. If we are connected to the internet, we have the access to huge amounts of knowledge at our fingertips. Nicholas Carr, in his essay “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” says that the internet is not only shaping our lives, but physically altering our brains. The internet impacts how we absorb and retain information by rewiring our brain. The more we browse webpages and check social media, the less focused we become on a simple task. This paper will try to examine how internet affects our ability to focus, depletes our ability to memorize, and makes us lazy.
There is no doubt that the internet is changing the way our brain absorbs information. This is because the internet and its distractions give us bad habits that affect the way we take in information. As such, the more we browse webpages and check social media, the less focused we become on a simple task. Carr says: “the net seems to be chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation” (413). Maurer Hermann, in the article “Does the Internet Make Us Stupid,” says that the internet is reducing our ability to concentrate and our cognitive ability, much as our physical fitness has been reduced by all kinds of machinery for physical work and locomotion (48).
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This is because the availability of so much distracting information on the internet has weakened our ability to concentrate. Such distractions include: headlines, advertisements, videos, games, and others that come with online sources. As such people tend to find themselves flipping through tabs to see what they have opened, checking their e-mails, following Facebook updates, watching videos, or reading advertisements because the need for constant updates has been rewired into our brains. Despite these distractions, the net is the best place to look for topics of interest as it allows us to gain understanding of topics we are not familiar with.
It is seemingly clear that our ability to memorize is depleting. For instance, when reading an article, we might come across word that we will have to look up. This process usually leads us into a different direction. Then, after about 30 minutes, we have completely forgotten what we were originally searching because of many the tabs that we have opened. Carr uses his personal experience of the usage of internet to show the way the internet has affected his brain and the way he thinks and retain information: “over the past few years,” he writes, “I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural-circuitry, reprogramming the memory” (412). Sparrow says: “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips,” and also says that, “when we face with difficult questions, people are primed to think about computers and that when people expect to have future access to information, they have low rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead of where to access it” (4). This is because people tend to rely on the internet as a primary form of memory where information is encoded, stored, and can be retrieved. We feel less pressure to memorize information because we know it is all archived on the internet. Despite this, I think the net has made accessing of information easy. We no longer must spend long hours of research in the library to find things, instead we just google it.
The advent of net and its astonishing availability of information has made us lazy in the sense that we do not have to remember anything because we have google and we do not have to use a paper map for directions because we have GPS navigation. Carr describes how Bruce Friedman, a blogger, lost the ability to read books: “even the blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb, I skim it” said he (414). This means that the easy accessibility of internet has proved us quick and easy to read information about any topic. This has caused us to be skimmers of information. It has rewritten our brain in such a way that our mind has begun to conform to the thought process of the Internet, rather than think independently and critically about specific ideas and topics. However, I think the internet can be blamed for the development of this kind of habit. It is by human nature to simplify things and make clarify easy as possible where ever they can.
In conclusion, the advent of the internet, just like any previous inventions, had some negative impact on the society. For example, the invention of the printing press had a great impact on the Renaissance of literature and culture. Carr says that when the printing press was invented, “the Italian humanist Hieronimo Squarciafico worried that the easy availability of books would lead to intellectual laziness, making man less studious and weakening their minds” (422). In addition, Brenton says in “Feeling Mediated: A History of Media Technology and Emotion in America” that just like in ancient Greece, “new forms of technologies bring with them both fear and hope, on one hand allowing us deeper emotional connections and the ability to forge global communities, while on the other prompting anxieties about isolation and over-stimulation” (68-69). Even though, the internet might have depleted our ability to focus, memorize, and make us lazy, it is still highly regarded as Godsent. It has enhanced our abilities and increased our processing speeds for acquiring knowledge. It has made our brain smarter and efficient in multitasking. It is the most useful tool today that connects us to the rest of the world in a flash and drives our society into the future, making all our lives easier.
- Brenton, Malin. Feeling Mediated: A History of Media Technology and Emotion in America. NYU Press, 2014. PP. 33-69.
- Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Little Norton Reader, edited by Melissa A. Goldthwaite, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1979, PP. 149-159.
- Maurer, Hermann. “Does the Internet Make Us Stupid?” Communications of the ACM, vol. 58, no. 1, Jan. 2015, PP. 48 – 51. Doi: 10.1145/2629544.
- Sparrow, Betsy et al. Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips. Science. 2011. DOI: 10.1126/science.1207745