4 min read

Internet: Friend or Foe?

Internet: Friend or Foe?
Photo by Sergey Zolkin / Unsplash

The internet is a useful thing. It has given us instant access to all the knowledge in the world, which is an amazing opportunity for everyone. There's just one problem: our ability to think critically and form connections between what we're reading and what we already know about the topic at hand has decreased because of it. More than ever before, people are outsourcing their thinking process to Google or Wikipedia, instead of forming neurological connections through deep reading and reflective thinking.

I have read/listened to recently (In the Shallows by Nicolas Carr). In this Book, Dr Carr argues that due to the nature of the internet, we have changed our thinking patterns and the way we store information in our minds.

Distractions are abundant on the internet. While we TRULY believe that we are giving the internet our undivided attention, we are actually bouncing from one distraction to the next. Our brain cannot process the information fast enough.

Look at it this way 👇

When we read a book, we are basically turning on a tap and allowing knowledge to flow. Working memory is similar to a cup. When we read, we fill the cup with the most essential drops from the tap and deposit them into our long-term memory's bathtub. The internet, on the other hand, is more akin to a series of taps operating at the same time. Not only are we not obtaining all of the stuff from a single tap, but we are so overloaded with information that virtually all of it slips us by.

So here is the problem.

The Problem with Internet Search Engines #

A particular source of concern is that the industry in charge of providing access to information has a fundamental desire to keep us jumping around rather than exercising focused, linear thought.

Advertisement is how search engines like Google earn money. The more clicks on links, the more money Google earns. Thus, providing us with an incentive to keep clicking rather than staying on a single page and absorbing the information and reflecting on its merit. (as previous generations did with Books).

Think back to your last internet browsing session. did you stay on one page and read it from start to finish or did you just scan the page looking for key terms you are interested in? Maybe that is precisely what you are doing on this page. Busted.   And if you don't find the quick fix answer you go back to the results page and look for the next link. This makes us super surfers of the internet.

If I was to ask you how tall is Mount Everest and Machu Picchu, I doubt many of us would actually know the answer to that without looking up the facts on a search engine.  Yes, some argue well, why do you need to know to memorise facts as you can quickly find them on the internet. Effectively, we are outsourcing the memory aspect to a machine that can store that information for us.  Great! Right?

Or are there drawbacks?

Information-rich environments have drawbacks for users

There are some drawbacks, though. Because you don't retain the information, you can't fully reflect. In the manner in which you would if you had more time to evaluate the content and draw your own conclusions.

I'll give you an example: I was listening to Blinkist (a book summarizing app) - fantastic, I can read 100 books and get all of the latest theories and be a walking encyclopedia.

Well, I listened to over 100 books over the following two months. However, I ended up mixing concepts and couldn't remember which book I obtained the knowledge from or how it linked to other subjects. This is because I did not devote enough time to learning and absorbing the material in order to establish meaningful mental connections. Thus my goal to become 100 times wiser failed... for the time being.

So, how do we exercise that mind muscle?

Now, I prefer to read books in full and then spend time contemplating the book. Ask meaningful questions:

  • Is it clear how the author developed his train of thought?
  • What are my key takeaways?
  • Does this confirm/challenge my current knowledge and why?
  • What is my counterargument to the author/what additional arguments I can make with the author?

Asking these questions, means I am wrestling with the ideas presented and making my mind work for the perspective rather than just reading it from a webpage and just accepting the formation.

The internet has created the illusion of scarcity of good information. Because We are searching for the EXACT answer to our questions online we don't stop and think how similar questions or answers could give us the right train of thought to arrive at the correct answer.

We as humans are currently transforming our thinking in order to interact with online technology. As the boundaries between human and computer interaction continue to blur, we may find ourselves reshaping ourselves in the image of technology — becoming, in a sense, more machine-like.

We develop brain connections to better use the web in the same way that primates rearrange their thoughts to make tools an extension of themselves.

Let's be friends...

I'm a passionate individual who loves exploring the world through different lenses. With a background in engineering and a curiosity-driven mindset, I aim to share insightful perspectives on various topics through my blog, SharpPerspectives. From technology trends to personal growth, I strive to provide valuable content that sparks curiosity and inspires readers to broaden their horizons. Join me on this intellectual journey as we navigate the complexities of life and uncover new insights together. Let's embark on a quest for sharper perspectives and a deeper understanding of the world around us. 💛