Thursday, March 21, 2013

What is the internet doing to our brains?

Could the greater portion of the internet be operating like a fast food restaurant? Offering quick, tasty bites of data and entertainment that really ends up providing nothing beneficial to the brain? insight, no thought provocation, no improvement in mental acuity?

Could the presence of the internet be rewiring the circuitry of human brains to want to jump around from one piece of information to the next? The internet may be making it more difficult for the average brain to focus on any particular topic for a protracted interval of time. No one can say whether the human brain has evolved to deal with this constant, instantaneous access to information and entertainment. Are more and more individuals disengaging from reading lengthy books to instead jump from site to site on the internet?

I think that some brains may be more equipped to handle the presence of the internet than others. People who naturally have the ability to be disciplined and delay gratification, individuals who tend to not procrastinate in their projects and pursuits and don’t jump down rabbit trails of inanity (web surfing) will be more able to use the internet in a beneficial manner (that is, use it in ways that help them achieve their goals).

The internet may be acting as a giant selecting mechanism that hinders many individuals (that already have an innate tendency to be more impulsive or have a decreased attention span) from completing their life’s goals. How could it do this? Perhaps it is sucking copious quantities of time from such a person—time that could have been spent exploring more innovative and creative pursuits, inventing something or exercising.

On the contrary, the internet offers many individuals an enhanced means to be creative and explore opportunities that would have been inaccessible to them otherwise.  The internet allows many to make a passive income which aids their survival. Perhaps, without the internet to diminish the sense of boredom, some individuals would be off pillaging, raping, watching reality television shows, or going to church.

The internet is still a very new phenomenon in human history. It will help many and hurt many. Like the technology of genetically modified organisms, the internet is a technology—a tool—that can be used for good and bad purposes. 


  1. You included "going to church" in the same sentence as "pillaging, raping" as things people might choose to do when bored. By putting them in the same sentence, you give them equal status. Excellent.

  2. Very appropriate! (he said, while distracting himself from work yet again . . .)

    Have you seen this? Amusing Ourselves to Death - I'd say Huxley has this one pretty much right.

    1. Thank you for stopping by then! haha
      I tried to check out the link but I got a "this page cannot be found". :( I will try again

    2. Sorry - I don't know what happened there; it was a link to a cartoon that may have gone viral and exceeded bandwidth limitations for the site. The subject was Neil Postman's 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business which compares Orwell's vision of a world in which we are denied information with Huxley's idea that the reverse would apply - we'd have too much trivial information and would trivialize it.

      The foreword of the book is online here, and puts it much better than I could. The cartoon was even better. :( (And a link to another blog with the foreword, which someone gave me only this morning, has also gone dead - do you think someone is trying to tell us something? ;) )

    3. And the cartoon is back! Phew!