The other day I had an hour to kill before seeing a movie with my dad. I had options. I could write the next scene of my short story, read some poetry, or breeze through a chapter of my current novel. Instead, I went on Facebook. Then I checked my inbox on Yahoo. Then Gmail. Then Goodreads. Back and forth, from site to site, for 60 minutes.
By the time my dad came up to pick me up, the hour had disappeared. I had actually lost an hour online.
Two years ago I wrote a post lauding the positives of the internet. Indeed, if it were not for the internet, I would be unable to share my
glamorous selfies thoughts on this blog, Skype my friends who live hundreds of miles away, and look up random information with just a few clicks. However, even as I write this post, I feel an insidious issue arising in my head – that the internet promotes shallow and scattered thinking, detracting from our ability to focus for an extended period of time.
Aside from some of the internet’s other negative effects, in The Shallows, Carr writes about how it rewires our brains. Like a drug, it addicts us and provides us with unhealthy and short-lived dosages of dopamine. On a personal level, at times I feel like the internet has damaged my attention span. Sometimes when working online, the desire to check my email or to go on Twitter or Facebook disrupts my flow of thought. Even when engaging in non-internet related tasks, I find myself drifting away. I still maintain the ability to focus when I study, do serious work, or really put my mind to it, but I often wonder whether I live up to my full intellectual potential – or whether the internet has presented me with a mental road block.
The internet continues to shape society as well. My youngest cousin got a smartphone in the fifth grade, and a high school near where I live requires that its students have smartphones to participate in certain class activities. Nowadays, when waiting in line at stores or walking outside, I notice so many kids tapping away on their phones instead of reading books or interacting with the people around them. It causes me to question the authenticity of the friendships they form, and on a wider scale, I feel like so many of us have become so consumed with our online appearance that we fail to make a genuine effort to connect with those around us outside of a “like” or “favorite” button. While the internet acts as a bridge, in does not always foster meaningful conversation – it does not always create an engaging back and forth as opposed to a “reblog” or a “like.”
I guess it comes back to moderation, at least for me. Whenever I find myself on Facebook for unproductive reasons, or Twitter, or even forums about clinical psychology programs, I need to remind myself that I have to live my life – not just read about other people’s lives online. Whenever a void appears, instead of sinking into it, I will leap over it, avoiding Facebook depression and all the other possible consequences.
What have your experiences been with the internet? I’m sure it has pros and cons for everyone, but does anyone relate to the more negative effects I address in this post? Or do you not have any issues with the internet and technology at all? Perhaps the summertime has siphoned my attention span, and the internet remains innocent. Anyway, if you want to read my reviews of The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden, and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, you can find them here, here, and here respectively. I hope you all have a fabulous week!