Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Internet?

After reading both of the assignments for this week, I started to think about my thoughts about the internet and my own ways of reading. I have to say, I don’t think the internet is making me stupid, at least not in terms of my reading, and I’m not afraid of technology turning us into an army of thoughtless drones.

In “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” the author discusses how he and his writer friends no longer have the attention spans for reading long articles and find themselves skimming things, losing focus, and often times avoiding things they once would have read without an issue. I don’t think we can blame the internet for these things. I think we could blame being overworked and perhaps the motivation of the individual. I’m a Lit Major too, and I’ll confess to skimming certain long articles or books for various reasons. Usually it’s because of the number of pages I have to get through in a certain amount of time, one not large enough to read every word on every page.

Skimming articles and short attention spans are nothing new, certainly not things that can be solely blamed on the internet. The original Cliffnotes, those little yellow books with the black stripes, appeared in stores long before Google become accessible to everyday people. That is to say, people have always been doing these things. The internet is just the newest scapegoat. Before kids were leafing through classics and long books to go outside and play; now they’re hurrying through homework to get online or do whatever kids do these days. (Kids these days!)

Independent reading isn’t dead, as the author goes on to suggest, and the internet isn’t killing it. Technology is just granting access to simpler forms of “beating the system” to the people who don’t want to dedicate their time to research, close reading, etc. The people who want to do those things still will. Technology can only affect a person as much as they allow it too.

What do you guys think?

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22 Responses to Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Internet?

  1. Eric says:

    Lynne,

    I completely agree with your post and love the fact that you brought up Cliffnotes. As I type, I am looking to my bookshelf on the left and it is filled with exactly sixteen of these black and gold clad covers, ranging in everything from Golding’s, Lord of the Flies to Homer’s, The Iliad. The funny thing is: when I pulled them from the shelf to count, off with them came a cloud of dust. Long are the days where we even need tangible print to save time, now we have the internet, but just as you said — (and I 100% agree), it has certainly not made me stupid.

    I also agree with you that we can’t blame the internet and Google for our shortened attention spans. That’s ridiculous! Let’s face it, nothing is stopping anyone from continuing to pick up a 1,000 page novel and read it. Nothing except ourselves. We simply don’t have the time. With technological advancements, comes a hundred other advancements, and our attention has been pulled in many more directions than long ago. So dropping everything in our lives is not as easy to do anymore. Like you said, “The internet is just the newest scapegoat.”

    And with all of that being said, we need to remember that NOT everyone are “readers”. This article almost implies that before the internet, everyone was just sitting around reading books. And for me, that was never the case. I am just not a “reader”. I have never thoroughly enjoyed it, and I still don’t. And because of that, I have ALWAYS had to concentrate a little harder, and block out ALL distractions to remain focused. And what IS interesting, I’d say that instead of the internet making that worse, it has increased my amount reading. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still am not in love with the idea, but I certainly am more exposed to much more literature.

    So, ultimately, just as you said in your closing remarks…technology can only affect a person as much as they allow it too! If one wants to read…they’ll read. If they want to skim…they’ll skim!

  2. Lexicon says:

    Yeah I’m going to jump on board with both of you guys — it all comes down to the person. I feel that having access to the internet and Google has made me a way smarter person than I could have been without it. Think of all of the things that we are able to learn about with the input of a few keystrokes; it’s crazy. For me, the internet helps me feel in touch with limitless possibilities. I can learn about anything at any time that I wish, and I can choose how much information I want to absorb. If I’m feeling lazy I can find some shorter articles to skim over, if I’m very interested I can find something more in depth and painstakingly deconstruct the whole thing. The internet is just a tool, and, like all tools, it’s power and usefulness are determined by the people who use it.

  3. profvee says:

    Fascinating discussion. I’m excited to talk about our different reading styles in class.

  4. dmk says:

    Lynne,

    I had not considered things like Sparknotes and Cliffnotes, but it is true they have been around long before the internet. We are always trying to make things more efficient and there are always people trying to get by without actually dedicating themselves to the work. But this makes me think of myself now, in college: I feel as though at least every semester there is that one class where you don’t really have to read or have to really do much of anything to get a good grade. So, I don’t. Correction: I can’t; I don’t have time. I don’t know about you guys, do you seem to have that one class a semester that requires little effort? What happens, as it did to me, when you have a semester where that isn’t the case, where every class requires your full attention and dedication? I felt like I was drowning when it happened to me. Are we cramming too much in to really get meaning out of all of the classes we are required to take?

    Okay, so I just asked a lot of questions. Basically I am not sure if it would be more beneficial to “read in slow motion” or to have so much reading you can’t actually do it all. Or maybe just somewhere in between.

  5. moosey22 says:

    I agree with all of the above comments in that the internet does not change the way we read much unless we allow it to. I personally use the internet and Facebook way too often probably but I am still able to sit down and read long articles or enjoy a good long novel. However, I am wondering if the reason that we are still able to do this is specifically because we are forced to do it on a daily basis. All of us have so much reading for classes that we don’t even have time to read it all. We never have a lack of materials and assignments being handed to us. Will this change in the future if we continue to use the internet frequently but no longer read as much? Maybe not to each of us personally, since many of us will have to continue to read frequently for a while. But what about for people who are not “forced” to read on a daily or even weekly basis? Are they perhaps the ones who can no longer read anything but skimming on the internet? Is it just that people become out of practice at reading? Overall I do not believe that the internet is making us stupid in any way, because it is really the choice of the individual as to how much they read and how much they let internet reading affect their abilities.

  6. Jane says:

    Sorry to go against popular opinion here, but I agree that the internet has played a huge role in limiting our attention spans. Sure, it’s difficult to focus on a 1,000 page novel–maybe our brains aren’t designed with the capacity to handle all that at once. But it seems to me that the internet has greatly limited our attention spans while increasing our willingness and complicity in being distracted, entertained, and stimulated. I have never felt fulfilled after wasting time on the internet, jumping from link to link, always thinking that the next one will interest me and will be worth it. Somehow, despite the touted efficiency of computers, I sometimes get sucked into spending a hugely disproportionate amount of time on the internet.

    Maybe I’m just old-fashioned. Perhaps I just need to get with the times. After all, I get offended when I am having a conversation with a friend and she stops mid-sentence or clearly stops listening to me to send a text message. I find having a laptop in class (with the vast world of the internet at my fingertips) wildly distracting. I deactivated my Facebook months ago (and, believe it or not, and I haven’t missed out on one worthwhile event yet!). I still send and receive handwritten letters. It breaks my heart to see a mom completely distracted from her precious toddler because she is browsing the internet on her smart phone. I think that the internet presents us with this guise of efficiency: because we can accomplish things faster, we can a) do more things at one time (email, Facebook chat, browse the news, update our blog, tweet, etc.); and b) do more (before, during, and/or after we have accomplished what we have set out to do). I cannot tell you the amount of times I have gone onto the internet for a simple purpose (say, checking the weather) and have found myself, 10 or more minutes later, wondering why in the world I was on the internet in the first place. Is this just me? Am I the only one who can focus infinitely better when reading a physical book or article in my hands versus reading or communicating online?

  7. kristenj says:

    While I don’t believe that the internet is turning us into thoughtless drones, I do believe it’s making us a little bit lazier. In the olden days, when people had to scour the stacks in libraries to find the perfect book or article to use in their papers, they were exposed to a wider range of information that we today might not be exposed to because we can simply type in a few key words and BAM the article we need is right in front of our eyes. Now I’m not saying this is a bad thing and honestly I don’t know what I’d do without the internet. All I’m saying is that in terms of actually remembering a ton of information, I don’t necessarily believe that we have to do that anymore because we can get it so easily with a few taps of the keys.

    Also, while I read an article on the internet I find myself drifting or find my attention is distracted by something else. When I’m reading some really important article I prefer to have it in my hands, rather than on my computer screen. But maybe that’s just me….

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