Will vs. Web

By Eleanor Brown

In Rest Day/Theory

July 17, 2013

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Best-selling author Eleanor Brown asks if the Internet is killing our ability to concentrate and analyze.

Something strange is happening to my brain: it can’t keep still.

And not in a good way. My mind is restless, hungry, desperate for a constant flood of input. At traffic lights, I reach for my phone to check Twitter. I click a hyperlink to an article that sounds interesting and give up halfway through because it’s too long and I can’t stay focused. Instead, I post something on Facebook, then return again and again to see how many likes and comments it has gotten.

I’m guessing that a number of you recognize these symptoms in yourself. As a novelist and reader, I find their effects are disturbingly obvious, but our new frantic, distractible consciousness affects us all.

When former Wired writer Nicholas Carr documented these changes in an article for The Atlantic, he titled it: “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” His research turned up an unsettling answer: yes.

He expanded that research into a book that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (W.W. Norton and Company, 2011). I approached reading it with a sense of relief and dread. Finally, I thought, someone can explain why my mind is changing. But finally, I feared, someone will tell me that the Internet has destroyed my capacity to think.

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4 Comments on “Will vs. Web”


Chris Worden wrote …

The format/design on these new articles are great, keep up the good work HQ Media! Oh, and the article was awesome as well. :-)


wrote …

Great article on the so called social media distraction. No it’s not a “communist plot” but the internet social media keeps expending daily and detracting our minds from a focus of what is vital to our existence. I just thought it was information over load, but in looking at this article it changes how we decipher our information we need to run our personal lives, in our best interest. Lately I use Kindle now a lot more for reading what I want to read and absorb, detached from the internet media "crapola", without distraction or monitoring what I read in terms of content focus.


wrote …

Am I the only one who finds it extremely hypocritical that this article is posted on the internet, using a page covered in bells and whistles, quotations, photos, bolded letters, and graphics? Is it so absurd to believe that the internet is, in fact, a productivity tool to be used as a supplement to knowledge gained from real world experience and books? Might those who are already smart know how to use the internet to enhance their knowledge, while those who are already stupid and scatterbrained get distracted? But Brown was right, my attention span for this type of pointless article is limited. I stopped after page 3. Go ahead, join the Amish. A society that does not advance technologically dies, and ours would advance more quickly with fewer Luddites.


wrote …

Someone told me, when the printing press was invented people thought it would make ua all a little dumber because no one would need to memorize long stories and retell them from memory. I think this was a true thing, I am not sure, maybe I will Google it and find out. I am from before the internet and often tell (mostly my kids) how "back in the day" we used to drive to and from work in silence or blasting CCR to deal with what was to be or had been our day. They laugh and call me silly old man with my walking up hill both ways stories.

This article hit a lot of the points I have tried to make with my kids and anyone who can't remember ever dialing a phone number on a rotary phone (remember numbers with zeros?). Like I said I am from before the net, I work in the computer industry, so I like thikning I helped bring it about, I know how to use it. I was creating bbs's and using portals to play with this new fad back then too. I've been distracted by it and get where you're coming from on this. When you mentioned how you disconnect from all the distractions, I fell a little bit in love with you, not gonna lie. I may have a dinner with my girls and see if we can follow your lead on this for some of our family time.

Thank you for a great article. Also, wanted to mention (from a comment I read on this post), I made a video about a cake once. Put it up on youtube and got a comment telling me "you should kill yourself!" It was a video about a cake! Sometimes people just feel the need to hate on others because they don't like the flavor of what we're cooking, or maybe they just can't digest without a dash of troll. I think your article was DELICIOUS!


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