Are we getting dumber?

Friday, September 2, 2011

I began the journey to finish my college degree over a year ago, and I was terrified. The course load along with working and other activities were worrisome to say the least. I knew the undertaking would be challenging, but ultimately decided it was the path I needed to take. Flash forward to my first evening I sat down to read my first chapter, and I recall vividly the ADHD symptoms (that I had never previously experienced) take over my body. I thought to myself, how can anyone sit and read this much for this long?

Well, my question seems to have been finally answered by Nicholas Carr quite simply in that we cannot. His article in The Atlantic describes this epidemic as the result of the way we absorb information on the Internet, and that it is in fact making us "stupid." "What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation." I could not agree more, and I was delighted to find out that I was not alone in my dread of the wordy- reading. I was not delighted, however, to learn that these quick-read habits could be affecting my intelligence.

We are a society that relishes in instant gratification, and that has now parlayed into the way we want to consume information. Few pick up a newspaper and read it cover to cover. Rather, they hop on the web, cruise over a few major headlines, and feel quite satisfied...for the moment anyway. It is this new behavior instilled in us from the Internet that has transferred over into our behavior with all types of reading, and appears to be verging on detrimental.

Bruce Friedman, a blogger himself stated, "even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it." Because this is a learned behavior, is it possible to unlearn it? If we commit to taking in an entire article on the Internet, will it help change patterns in contently finishing in entirety a news story? I for one am willing to give it try. And to not bore Mr. Friedman if he happens to be reading this, I will end before a fifth paragraph has the opportunity to make this a "skim" worthy post.


David Wiley September 2, 2011 at 9:13 PM  
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David Wiley September 2, 2011 at 9:16 PM  

I personally have a love/hate relationship with the instant gratification society we have become. There are times when I thoroughly enjoy having such capabilities at my fingertips. It makes researching topics a lot less time-consuming, allowing more time to be spent finding more sources or writing and revising a paper. It makes communication with people across a distance a convenience. I remember the days when people had to sit at home, waiting by the phone to get a call back about when or where to meet. I wouldn't want that to come back.

Yet I am one who is willing to sit at a computer and read long articles and blog posts. I still sit down almost daily with some sort of book and read out of sheer enjoyment; some of them requiring determination and focus to finish like Moby Dick.

There are some articles I've seen that mention a fear of Twitter causing us to all communicate less. Is our culture going to become more like Japan's where conversations include long pauses and minimal talking? Is our poetry of choice going to become the Haiku? And if so, at what point will that become too much for us to read?

Mike Tweeton September 5, 2011 at 8:09 PM  

Just Google it. How often have I heard this when I asked a friend or colleague a question they do not know the answer to. I have read that massive search engines such as Google and Bing are decreasing our memory capacity. The internet encourages the method I used to pass all of my tests in high school, cram and dump. What is the reward for memorizing information when it is instantly available to you via a smart phone?

Perhaps is it not appropriate to ask the question “Are we becoming dumber?” but rather, are we intelligently adapting our social and academic skills to match the resources of our time? What resources will be available to the next generations? Will they appear stupid because of new technology?

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