As Nicholas Carr discusses in his article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?: What the Internet is doing to our brains”, our brains are highly adaptable. Their plasticity is what allows us to adapt from old media to new media, like adapting from working “like clockwork” to working more like “a computer”. However, the changes are not always for the best.
Carr gives several examples of how today’s technology has changed how we think, often in snippets instead of more developed ideas, and I have to agree with him. While I don’t like being limited to a certain number of words or characters by which to express my thoughts – one of the many reasons I never got the appeal of Twitter – the truth is that many of us today have been conditioned to read much shorter materials than before: status updates, short blog posts, summaries, etc. Unlike Carr, I don’t experience too much difficulty where immersing myself in a narrative is concerned – at least, not when it comes to novels. I’ve been an avid reader since I was eight years old, often finishing a novel within a day and then quickly moving on to another. Today, I still find myself getting lost in a good novel, though I admit I may be taking more frequent breaks than before, often stopping between chapters to do chores or homework or Google something that caught my interest.
When it comes to textbooks, however, I have to say I can relate to Carr completely. It’s a lot harder now than it was before for me to stay focused on reading a textbook chapter thoroughly instead of giving into the temptation to skim it, and I often find myself mentally groaning and then skimming (in attempts to speed-read) if a chapter is longer than five or six pages. Only time will tell if these new changes to our thinking are good or bad, but personally, I don’t like them.