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ETpro's avatar

Is the Internet changing the way human minds think?

Asked by ETpro (34472points) August 15th, 2010

So says American author Nicholas Carr writing recently in The Atlantic. His article, ’‘Is Google Making Us Stupid’’ started a hot debate. Now it has lead to a new book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Carr.

What’s your experience as a Netizen? Is the Internet changing the way you think?

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22 Answers

marinelife's avatar

No, I don’t think so. I usually use it for research.

iWitch's avatar

The internet definitely changes the way I think about everything. I always want information immediately and don’t want to wait for it. In a lot of ways, it makes me lazy. It’s changed communication for me: there are somethings that I’ll say online that I’d never say over the phone or in person. It makes me feel isolated and alone while I search out people to talk to, and it makes me isolated in the real world because I’m always sitting in front of a computer screen wanting something more.

I haven’t read much in the past few years because I spend so much time on the net, and I stay up to all hours of the night doing things that just don’t matter.

I’m a complete net abuser and addict and it’s changed the way I think and live since I was ten.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think I learn new things almost everyday from the internet. I used it for school. I use it to keep up with things in the nursing world. I enjoy talking to people and feel that I learn quite about just from talking with some people.

Aside from that, I also use it for entertainment. While it may not be educational, I don’t think it is harmful. Afterall, reading stimulates the mind. ^_^

Austinlad's avatar

The Internet is a unparalleled resource for information. But it’s also a giant sandbox filled with untrue information posted by people who either unwittingly pass it on or do so got their own agendas.

In the heyday of print—newspapers, magazines, etc.—there was more time and incentive to fact-check and more people willing to do it. In the Internet age, anyone can publish anything he/she wants, fact or fiction, and unfortunately, there are too many readers not educated or curious enough to know or seek the difference.

Dog's avatar

We have actually had this conversation in chat. Yes. I believe we are evolving to a collective brain such as the Ood have.

Seaofclouds's avatar

Great points @Austinlad. I honestly didn’t even think about all of the incorrect information on the internet. I have started teaching my son that that not everything on the internet is true. That incorrect information could certainly have a negative effect on people that don’t have a grasp on which sites are good to get information and which aren’t and how to tell the difference.

mattbrowne's avatar

To some extend, yes. But so are printed books compared to oral traditions.

Austinlad's avatar

@mattbrowne, true, but people, especially younger people, don’t do much book and newspaper reading these days; the Internet is where they get their information. And because info can be posted in real time—unlike books and magazines, in which lead time for printing is necessary—the Internet info is constantly changing and churning, and i might add, become more biased all the time.

Cruiser's avatar

I agree with this author. The internet is doing the same thing the calculator did to mathematical skills…IMO it is destroying independent critical thinking skills and abilities.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Austinlad – Exactly. Like the people who rather read a book centuries ago than relying on oral traditions. Paradigm shift.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

So many people just Google keywords and accept the first thing that pops up. Critical thinking is even more necessary now, in an age when anyone can “publish” anything they like on the internet at virtually no cost.

mattbrowne's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land – Yes, and a good example is the Google search for ESTA. Most links are a fraud. ESTA is a free, automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program. Some sites try to charge tourists $50 or more.

Facade's avatar

I agree with @mattbrowne‘s take on this. The internet improved the way we get information. I don’t think moderate usage of the internet is an issue. It makes us more efficient.

ratboy's avatar

I don’t think.

john65pennington's avatar

Well, lets compare calculators to computers. when calculators were first introduced to humans, we began to lose the reality to think for ourselves. instead of solving a mathematical equasion in our brain, we turned to the calculator and lost some brain cells. now, its the computer. instead of using a dictionary, instead of reading a book, instead of using a telephone, we now use the computer to seek the information we need. more brain cells down the tube. i guess i am as guilty as anyone else. but, i still use the dictionary for difficult words. i do this for one reason: in searching for the definition of one word, i will undoubtedly read the defintion of several other words BEFORE i locate my initial word. this way i will have at least learned one other word’s definition and i have learned something new for that day.

ETpro's avatar

@iWitch Sounds all too familiar. I still read books. I keep one in the bathroom and read while I am in there, a few paragraphs at a time. Thanks to being old enough to have a bladder with a short fuse, I can still get through a book in a reasonable time. :-)

@Austinlad We can always hope it breeds healthy skepticism and fact-checking on our own parts. Just as we can still hope world poverty will soon yield to a wave of spontaneous charity. :-)

@ratboy Eloquent answered.

wundayatta's avatar

Today, I was lying on my couch trying to read a magazine. My eyes kept having a hard time focusing and I kept falling asleep or getting distracted. I started to wonder if the Internet has give me ADD.

I can focus on a paragraph just fine. Maybe even a few, like we have here. But more than that is tough for me, these days. Wow! That makes me wonder at how I can write so much more than most people do. It’s such a demand on others, when most people are used to tweeting.

If you’re used to tweets, two sentences are tough. If you’re used to two sentences, a paragraph is tough. If you are used to keeping things to a paragraph, then an essay makes your eyes glaze over. Even if you can read essays and blogs and maybe even newspapers, a novel is just too much. Right?

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta It has been ages since I got so caught up in a book that I stayed up all night and finished it in one sitting. I truly doubt I could do it now.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

People with critical thinking skills won’t be dumber because of the internet, just the reverse.

wundayatta's avatar

@ETpro I will be going on vacation in a week. I still have two Asimov’s magazines to read. I have discontinued my subscription—in face all my magazine subscriptions except the New Yorker. I have maybe six books on my “to read” shelf, and I’m torn between trying to finish off the Asimov’ses or bringing novels to see if I can read a novel.

Of course, what’s worse, is that the place we are going has internet access. Pulling myself away to read is hard, but I am trying to learn how to do it.

Another factor for me is my eyes. I think they are getting worse for close vision. Maybe it’s due to all this mid-range vision I am using with the computer screen. Maybe I need books on a screen now? Or maybe it’s the position I’m in. I can read sitting in a chair looking at screen or down on the surface. Maybe I just can’t read while reclining and holding the book any more.

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