Too much Google is making us dumb
All that incessant reading on the Internet could scatter our minds, lessen our focus, and diminish our aptitude.
WARNING! Reading this article online could lead to stupidity. But not because I’ve written something that might cause you to lose more brain cells than you normally would on any given day. I’m not that clever. The only way I can make you “less clever” is by keeping you online for as long as possible.
When you read text online, there’s a good chance you’ll be exposed to a number of distractions at the same time. These usually come in the form of hypertext links, banners, videos, tabs, pop- up ads, and sidebars teeming with “goodies”, all of which vie for your attention.
I’m sure you know how irritating it can be when you’re in the middle of reading something, only to have, say, a pop- up suddenly appear on your computer screen.
“Grrr! I don’t want to sign up for your stupid newsletter,” you say through clenched teeth, as you struggle to get rid of the unwanted invitation.
One minute later, just as you’ve picked up where you left off, a video embedded on the site turns itself on unannounced, shattering the silence and scaring the bejesus out of you. If you’re lucky, your flailing arms won’t knock over the searing hot mug of coffee on your desk, straight onto your lap.
Once you’ve finished reading your online piece, you might be seduced into moving on to something else, and then something else again ...
As you hop, skip and jump your way across the Internet, you might stop to read something about the state of Donald Trump’s hair, followed by an op- ed on climate change, and then a piece about monkeys driving a wheelchair using just their thoughts. Before you know what’s happening, you’re reading something about a Japanese company that can scan and print a statue of your gestating foetus, which causes you to segue onto an online forum about the moral issues associated with using genetic profiling to determine an embryo’s gender. Phew! If you stop to think about it, you might say to yourself, “Wow! That’s a lot of stuff in an hour. The Internet is incredibly useful. If I keep this up, I’ll soon be a real smarty pants.”
Sorry to have to burst your bubble, but you’d be way off the mark. According to a recent report, “technology is inducing an intellectual decay in our brains.”
Sounds like something you’d hear in a zombie movie.
Simply put, the Internet is causing parts of your brain to shrivel up and die, I think. I can’t be 100% sure, because I’m possibly suffering from brain damage myself.
Let me try to explain. When you’re reading something on the Internet, say, the piece about the state of Donald Trumps hair, and you keep getting distracted by online links, much of the information you’re attempting to digest about hair follicles, comb- overs, and Donald’s irrational fear of needles becomes more and more fragmented with each interruption.
If your long- term memory attempts to absorb any of this, it will probably be a jumble of bits and pieces of information from different sources: Donald Trump is married to a hair follicle and has a wheelchair that can be driven by a telepathic female embryo. Your brain won’t be able to store this information in a meaningful way or connect it to many other existing memories, so it simply disappears into the ether.
According to the expert responsible for the report, “We become mindless consumers of data.”
Even when the online text you are read- ing contains something as unobtrusive as a short hyperlink connecting you to, say, an earlier report about Donald’s wife, your brain will say something like: “Hmm ... do I want to look at that after I’m done here?” This decision is made so quickly you might not even be aware of it. However, even this minute distraction is enough to interfere with your assimilation of the facts surrounding the state of the wannabe President’s hair. And if there are a number of hyperlinks on the same page ( leading to stories about his business dealings, and the shares he owns in a hairspray company) you might as well say goodbye to the possibility of retaining most of that information over the long- term.
“But how does that make me stupid?” I hear you asking just about now. “It’s okay to read stuff like that and forget it next week, because it’s mostly read for its entertainment value, anyway. Even serious news doesn’t need to be remembered – I can always Google the facts, if I ever need them in the future.” Now comes the scary bit. The depth and scope of human intelligence is based on our long- term memory. According to the report, “Creativity requires engaging our long- term faculties, in order to create new neural pathways and associations. By reading incessantly on the Internet, we scatter our minds, lessen our focus, and diminish our aptitude.”
Too much Google is making us dumb, but there is a solution: download articles for offline reading, and remove any distracting links. Also turn off your phone when you’re reading.
If it’s already too late for you, and you’re now as dumb as brick, you can always run for President.
Technology can induce intellectual decay when we become mindless consumers of data.