Is this smart tool actually making us dumber?
In this blog, I will be referring to ideas by Nicholas Carr, his book The Shallows, and his piece Is Google Making Us Stupid?
This interview with Nicholas Carr was super interesting to me. I related to many parts of it. In turn, I questioned a lot about my own learning style. Which made me question what I’m modeling for my students……
I admit that reading a good ol’ fashioned book has gotten more difficult for me lately. And typing a whole blog post in one sitting without checking my phone, watching a video, or Googling 32 questions in the middle is a challenge. Not only do I find myself having a difficult time focusing on one topic, but I have trouble with the mental capacity to think deeply about something.
I pride myself on my ability to multitask. I love having multiple tabs open, working on multiple projects at a time, and being able to think about many concepts in one sitting. It’s the efficiency that makes me crave this constant activity. It makes me feel productive and purposeful. But if I’m doing all that, am I really doing any of it well?
This interview forced me to think about that. When I have dozens of tabs open on my browser, I’m thinking about which ones I can eliminate fastest – which ones are the easiest to read where I’ll get the most “bang for my buck” reading them. Will I be super focused on the scholarly article? Or the quick list with a bunch of new other tabs that I could open? If I’m skimming for keywords, will I gather the most crucial information to get a full understanding? I’m thinking no.
But, my ability to concentrate on things hasn’t always been like this. I used to love to read and was able to a lot more than compared to today. I blame it on being busier, working full-time and all… But when I watch this interview and think about this mindset, I’m forced to admit otherwise. I could spend hours on my laptop reading Buzzfeed articles. I could learn new information from them, like which dessert I am according to my zodiac sign and where I should go on my next vacation according to my favorite Disney princess. So why can’t I spend the same amount of time sitting down, reading an actual book, reading actual content?
I want to say my brain muscles have gotten lazy. In the interview, Carr talks about the plasticity of the brain. The brain can change with training. I thought about how your body changes when you train different parts of it regularly in the gym. If you’re training it super intensely in one area and letting the other area go, the brain will get uneven, just like your body could get a little top-heavy. It won’t be able to perform functions as well if it’s weaker in that area (brains shouldn’t skip leg-day either).So I won’t say my brain is lazy, but it is definitely weaker in some areas compared to others. This seems to be because of the type of content I’m reading, and the content I’m willing to expose myself to. I’m accustomed to reading short pieces of information where I can skim a bunch of information at a surface level. I’m training this part of my brain. I’m not training the part that thinks deeply, annotates, and poses questions about what I’m reading. I’m not training the part of my brain that concentrates and thinks profoundly. Therefore, this part is getting weaker.
Well, I sure don’t want to think of my brain as weak, or deteriorating. I preach lifelong learner, I can’t let myself go, brain-wise. This makes me want to practice deeper thinking regularly to strengthen this part of my brain again. I want to give myself opportunities to think deeply and concentrate on complex content. Now, to get my do-not-disturb hat on!