One could assume the opposite in terms of how the internet affects our intelligence; with a world of information at our fingertips, you’d think we’d become brighter and not dumber. However, just having the information so readily available is not as educating as one might expect. Retaining the information for future use is the key to making one smarter.
Unfortunately, because of the information overload syndrome, we are actually retaining less as we cruise the internet. Because it is so easy on the web to bounce from one subject to the next, focusing in order to retain data can be difficult. While multi-tasking is a good skill to have under your belt, it certainly can and does cause a lack of focus on one topic.
Old School Learning
Already learned adults who come from a background of ‘old school’ education, are probably not as susceptible to a dummying down affect as the younger generation might be. The young who begin their education in a technological world, could definitely be at a disadvantage. Depending on the internet/computer to do their thinking for them, they are less likely to develop good thought processing on their own. On the other side of the coin, they are well prepared to enter a modern workforce where technological knowledge is a sound requirement in most industries.
The Internet Changes the Way we Think
So then, are we becoming shallow and superficial in our thinking? Mounting scientific evidence suggests that this may very well be the case. The internet is definitely changing the way read, think and remember things. And in fact, we are not really required to remember things. Why do we need to remember things which can easily be looked up when the information is needed? Why clutter our already cluttered brains by storing information that can be so readily and easily obtained?
Dependence on Internet Reshapes our Mind
Relying on the internet not only for reference resources, but also for game playing and socializing, has caused us to become psychologically addicted to instant gratification and constant stimulation of one kind or another. All of this dependence has definitely reshaped they way our mind works.
Comprehension is Diminished by Internet Use
In one university experiment, half a classroom was allowed use the web while listening to a lecture while the other half had to shut down their computers. Subsequently, when tested on the lecture topic, those who were allowed to use the web tested much lower than those who did not rely on the internet. Other experiments showed that the more information and links shown on a computer screen while reading, the less likely we are to remember what has been seen; i.e. reading comprehension failure.
Less Creativity and Productiveness
A disturbing picture emerges as you contemplate the value of man/woman made thought. The intricate value of the mind is of much more worthwhile than just the ability to speed-read on the web. People reading internet content load with links are comprehending less than when reading the printed word. Those who watch presentations and other multimedia on the net, remember much less than if they were in sedate atmosphere comfortably reading, oh say, an actual book! Too much juggling leads to less productiveness and creativity
Divided Attention Reduces Critical Thinking
The general thread of these many disabilities is the dividing of our attention in so many directions. Everything about who we are as individuals is dependent upon our abilities to concentrate and focus our minds through our own in depth independent thinking outside the scope of the internet. Only after closely paying attention to new information, can we then associate it with something already meaningful to our already established memories. This is critical to complex thinking.
To Be Everywhere is to Be Nowhere
Constant interruptions and distractions while viewing websites on our phones and computer doesn’t allow our brains to connect distinctively for in depth thinking. Our memories weaken and our thoughts become incoherent. Two thousand years ago, Seneca, a Roman philosopher said it well: “To be everywhere is to be nowhere”. It’s rather fascinating that Seneca gleaned this insight long before the current technological era.
Technology Alters How we Think Even When Not in Use
It would be beneficial f the negative effects shut down after we turned our computers off. However, that is not the way the brain works. It quickly adapts to how we find, share and store information gathered by the internet. So by switching our minds habits with new technology, we cause them to weaken certain neural passageways and strengthen others. Therefore, even when the technology is not in use, it alters how we think.
The best defense against allowing the internet to invade and change the way we think, is to incorporate some non-technological brain work. Read a book or work a jigsaw puzzle. Completely relax your mind. Meditation is a great way to accomplish this, particularly if it can be done in a pretty spot of nature.
Are we then becoming programmed dummies? This author thinks not necessarily. While on the one hand we might be letting the internet store our information for us, on the other hand, our mind is freed up to explore other vast ideas and concepts. The possibilities for learning and creativity are boundless. Balance being the key, internet usage should be curtailed, at least for children. Learning about our world through the eyes of a computer screen can never compare to viewing the actual beauty and wonder of our world as viewed outside our front doors.
Kristen Bright is a blogger in San Diego, currently working with Instant Checkmate. Please follow Instant Checkmate on LinkedIn or contribute to the Instant Checkmate CrunchBase profile to see more of her current work.