I can stop any time I want.

I have been a voracious reader of books since I was a young boy.  I still am, but for many years now, I’ve spent increasing amounts of time each day reading articles on Internet web sites and web logs.

I notice that my ability to concentrate is much less when I am sitting in front of a screen than when I am sitting with a book on my lap.  I’ve wondered whether this is something inherent in the technology or whether this is because my habits were formed well before the computer age. Or whether this is just part of growing older.

Nicolas Carr published an article in The Atlantic magazine two years ago arguing that it is the technology. He has developed his argument in a new book, The Shallows. He argues that the limited human brain cannot at the same time keep up with all the multitasking, multimedia, advertising popups and other distractions on a typical Internet site, and at the same time devote full attention to the text.

Even the micro-decisions involved in passing over hyper-links use up cognitive capability, he said. Accordingly, I have put the links for this post below the fold.

I suppose the same would hold true of the distractions of Fox News, CNN and other cable news channels. If you are following the news ribbon at the bottom of the screen, and all the other graphics, it is hard to concentrate, let alone think critically, about what the newscaster is saying.

Years ago, when I would get home from work, I would flop myself down on my sofa, turn on the TV set and start cycling through the channels. Even when I couldn’t find anything I wanted to watch, I would keep on channel-surfing.  After I retired, I broke the TV habit. I have Basic cable service and seldom watch TV, but I spend almost as much time Internet-surfing now as I did channel-surfing then.

By starting this web log, I have put my Internet habit to what I hope is a socially productive use.  In moderation, it should not interfere with my ability to enjoy the pleasures of reading and conversation.  If this proves to be untrue, I can stop any time I want.

Click on this for Nicholas Carr’s original Atlantic article, “Is Google Making Us Stoopid?”

Click on this for a review and summary of Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows by Laura Miller of Salon.  I haven’t read the book myself.  My information about it comes from this review.

Click on this for Nicholas Carr’s own web log.  I’m sure he sees the irony of having a web log.

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2 Responses to “I can stop any time I want.”

  1. What the Internet is doing to our brains « Phil Ebersole's Blog Says:

    […] on I Can Stop Any Time I Want for an earlier post on the same […]

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  2. What the Internet is doing to our brains | GCDSJ.COM Says:

    […] on I Can Stop Any Time I Want for an earlier post on the same […]

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