What would you do if you found out that the internet is virtually turning you into an idiot?
We all treasure the perks of modern life: round-the-clock internet connection, instant communication and unlimited information at our fingertips, but do we pull back at some point to examine the impact it might be having on us?
Easy access to the internet means many of us are spending large chunks of our lives online. Thanks to wired and wireless mobile devices, being ‘plugged in’ has become the default setting for an increasing number of people.
Studies show 20 per cent of users access the internet through mobile devices. So we can watch TV programmes films and other media products on our mobile phones, laptops, consoles and so on at any particular time.
Fortunately or unfortunately there is stiff competition between media organisations jostling for our patronage. We are enticed by catchier images and shorter text that grabs our attention immediately. It is little wonder we are constantly ‘plugged in’. Research by Kaiser Family Foundation U.S, estimates that young people aged 8-18 spend an average of 53 hours plugged into entertainment media.
As a consequence, our ability to concentrate suffers considerably. We have shorter attention spans, which means we cannot process large volumes of information at a time. Hence, it is easy to argue we are becoming dumber and dumber.
We are not just contending with shorter attention spans, we are letting our memories wilt away by choosing not to use them, apparently. Another study by researchers in the U.S found that the internet is becoming our main source of memory instead of our own brains. In the age of Google, our minds are adapting so that we are experts at knowing where to find information even though we don’t recall what it is. In summary, here are their findings:
- People remember where to look up information - not the information itself. The researchers found that when we want to know something we use the internet as an ‘external memory’ just as computers use an external hard drive.
- People actively forget information if they think they can look it up later. Nowadays we are so reliant on our smart phones and laptops that we go into ‘withdrawal when we can’t find out something immediately’. And such is our dependence that having our internet connection severed is growing ‘more and more like losing a friend’.
How does this affect our lives?
- These tools have replaced our need to memorise many details, and without these tools we may be lost.
- Our new habits may interfere in the development of deep conceptual knowledge (we are familiar with the whats and hows but not the whys)
- The internet is deluged with incorrect information; we could easily be misinformed.
What do you think? Is the internet messing with your head? Are you better or worse off for your attachment to the internet?