Engaging Culture

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. To me “quiet time” is that moment to get into that secret place in Him. This shouldn’t & quite frankly cannot be rushed. How better than to start our day in His presence. Anything that we deem valuable & worth it we spend our time on, just as in a relationship but once we get familiar we too often become distant. That said even when we have quiet time that does not mean we cannot spend the day having intermittent constant praise. That is the whole point, we have let culture & technology (the things of this world)determine & diminish our relationship with God. This alone will cause ineffectiveness in the market place, people do not want more watered down versions of the Truth they want substance.

  2. I have ADD, so it’s, hey look a rabbit, all sort of more on the incomparison to what category. Losing our ability to focus or just looking to find out more things. The internet has made a dirth of information avaialble to us like no other time in history. So are we focusing less or becoming more curious ? Let’s not forget that most if us are running significantly faster, trying to squeeze more into the same time we have always had. As a natural by product we become impatient with what appears to be fluff and look for what we need to be instantly applicable. I think some of this lack of focus goes hand in hand with the “instant” gratification that many are becoming used to. No patience for wading through long paragraphs and such to find what we want, it needs to hit us immediately.

  3. 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…?

  4. 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


  5. 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.

  6. What was the post about? The first paragraph was too long and I couldn’t concentrate enough to finish it.

  7. But seriously….

    If there is something longer that I think is worth reading, I print it out and step away from the monitor. I concentrate better with lean back reading than lean forward leaning.

    Same with video content. If it’s more than a couple of minutes long, I want to watch it on the television from the couch, not sitting up in my desk chair.

  8. I don’t think ‘dumber’ just ‘different.’

    What if we utilize the short attention span to point us to intermittent constant praise, focus on God through out the day and not just ‘quiet time?’


  9. I have noticed all the things you mentioned except for reading books.

    During college I learned how to read/skim textbooks quickly and the moment I was done with college I joined a book club. I wanted to fall in love with reading again. Now, I read slowly because I enjoy being taken on the adventure of the book. So when I am “trapped on an airplane and can’t escape” I really enjoy taking it slow and absorbing every minute of it – that and I hate when a good book ends.

  10. ur rite! grate thinkr i usd 2 be, not 2day 🙂 lol. Did not red thru all ur article. So busy to git mind of Christ from jet set quick men of god… lol. lol. tee hee. nxt time, phil, rite shrter. just bot this nu iRing on my nose. can’t read long posts…

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