A new article in The Atlantic claims that Google is making us stupid. The article doesn’t blame only Google, of course. Rather, it believes the World Wide Web, TV and movies are dumbing down humanity. We are actually reading more than in the 1970’s, but instead of novels and newspapers, we are consuming snippets of information from a myriad of Web sites. The article claims we are becoming a society of Internet zombies.
The Net seems to be “chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”
The irony of the Atlantic article is that it’s too long for me to read. Honestly, the article proved its central point simply by its existence. As I discuss in my article, “Can you Digg it? 7 Tips for Bloggers Working with Social News Sites,” most Web surfers have short attention spans, given how easy it is to “change the channel” on the Web. So articles need to be short and direct.
Bite size portions, less is more: this is the recipe for our increasingly ADD-addled brains.
I agree that the Web is contributing to shorter attention spans overall. But contrary to the Atlantic article’s claims, I believe:
Google and instant access to the world’s collective knowledge has made me smarter.
Whenever I want to know something, the answer is usually just a few mouse clicks away. During the normal course of the day, I learn so much about so many different topics that would otherwise be inaccessible without the Web.
In the “old days,” if there’s something I didn’t know, I’d have to visit the library, consult an encyclopedia (remember those?) or find an expert. Which for most topics meant that I simply went on with my life without knowing the answers. Now with the Web, in seconds I can consult the world’s experts on nearly any subject, plus usually find a community, reviews, dissenting opinions, products and solutions.
With the Web, the world is truly at our fingertips. And that’s a good thing.
Article published on June 12, 2008
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