Is the Internet Re-Wiring our Brain?

Most of us wonder about the Internet making us dumber.  Well I have to admit that thanks to my GPS I don’t have to think about directions anymore, and thanks to my iPhone calendar, I don’t have to remember important dates.  Maybe from that perspective it’s making us a bit dumber.  But the issue I think we’re missing isn’t about being stupid, it’s about how the Internet is changing the way we THINK.   Recent cognitive studies have shown us that we’re losing the ability to focus.  The highly distracted, scattered, “mini” bits of information we encounter on the web have actually started to re-wire our thought processes.  As a result, my publisher is recommending I write books in small chunks with plenty of sub-dividers.  We’re seeing more 10 second TV commercials.  We want it quick, we want it fast, and we want it now.

For those of you who grew up at church camp, remember “quiet time?”  That’s when they made us start the morning alone reading our Bible and praying.  It’s purpose was to start the day alone with God, meditating on the scriptures.

How hard is that today?  Very.  I’m a hardcore book reader, but even I’ve noticed the difference.  In fact, I’ve discovered the best time for me to read is when I’m trapped on an airplane and can’t escape.

So I’m not so sure about being dumber.  But I am sure that whatever I’m reading better get to the point quick.   As a result, I lament the loss of real reflection.

Anyone else noticed it?

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  1. Absolutely! I used to be able to focus on large amounts of text! Now, I start to read a blog post and I find myself skimming the first sentence of each paragraph. That said, when I find myself with a really well-written piece of literature, I do revel in it and stick with it. Perhaps as a society our ability to write well as degenerated as well…?

  2. yeah big time

    I find it hard to read books when I am within internet reach. However when I’m on holidays outback somewhere (with no other options) then I can re-adapt.

    personally I find it a bit worrying as some stuff just needs to be read in big slabs rather than ‘posts’ or status updates


  3. If the content is engaging, I can read, read, read. If not, I skim, skim, skim. There’s just too much content out there anymore. We’re all getting pretty good at speed reading, I think. No need to worry about that–it doesn’t make us dumber. What does make us dumber is multi-tasking–lots of good research out there on that. Many of us are pushed by Covey’s “tyranny of the urgent.” Maybe it’s time to move some of that reading into a different quadrant. BTW–I think reading on planes is great. Also–research is showing that Kindle and other such digital readers are increasing books sales and reading–good news for authors.

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