Our minds on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

The Net Makes You Stupid, Just Like TV?

Oh good lord.  Why is that every medium that comes along has to be analyzed in this completely non-productive, irrational way.  Nicholas Carr over at Atlantic Monthly is jumping on the bandwagon of the Google-makes-you-stupid folks.  He starts with something I’ve heard a thousand times anecdotally from others: 

My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

“Oh nooo.  I’ve been using the internet and now I can’t concentrate.”  It’s not the net, it’s you.  Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  The net doesn’t make you unfocused, you do.  I’ve been using the web since it was and although I went through a period where I realized I was just too distributed through various channels, I got ahold of myself and started prioritizing and organizing. I learned to use tabs while browsing.  I got NetNewsWire.  I stopped reading everything right away and started building chronologies of stuff TBR (to be read) on del.icio.us and now Laterloop.

Not only can I still read books, I read books that are longer than human history.  That’s right, I put that link there to distract you!  You can’t resist clicking on it, can you!?  No, because the web and email have made you an unfocused idiot.  The problem here, Carr—the only problem—is that while you are literate, you are not web literate.  It’s changing the way you think because you don’t know how to control it.  It’s no different than television, folks, either you know when to turn it off, or you’re a couch potato.  It ain’t the TV that’s the problem.

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