The Internet Shapes the Way We Think
In his article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Nicholas Carr cites a University College London study of online research habits, which found that most users who visited online research databases used “a form of skimming activity” rather than close, in-depth reading: “They typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they would “bounce” out to another site. Sometimes they’d save a long article, but there’s no evidence that they ever went back and actually read it.”
Carr also cites Plato’s Phaedrus, in which Socrates warns that writing will negatively affect intellect by making people lazy:
“And because they would be able to ‘receive a quantity of information without proper instruction,’ they would ‘be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.’ They would be ‘filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom.’ Socrates wasn’t wrong—the new technology did often have the effects he feared—but he was shortsighted. He couldn’t foresee the many ways that writing and reading would serve to spread information, spur fresh ideas, and expand human knowledge (if not wisdom).”
The same argument can be made for the Internet’s effects on human cognition, and two main beliefs dominate the debate. The first is similar to Socrates’ concern — the immediacy of the Internet makes users lazy and trains their minds away from in-depth, long-term research. The other belief is that the immediacy of the Internet allows users to sample a wider range of information, thereby learning more things, but not as deeply, and without the same amount of effort as before.