The phone rang loudly and it woke me up. After shutting off the alarm, I checked my smartphone to see how many Facebook notifications appeared overnight. While going to school by subway, I updated my status to show that ‘Once again, there is no seat on line number 1.’ Today’s lunch menu, which I checked with the UOSroid (An application of University of Seoul,) was not appetizing. Thanks to UOSroid, I did not need to waste time going to the Student Hall to check the menu.
After class, I sat in front of the computer to work on some assignments. Though I found information related to the assignments easily on Naver (a Korean portal site), I found it hard to concentrate and read it. On another web page, a shopping mall advertisement selling new product moved glittery. Online window shopping made me waste quite a lot of time. I opened the Naver page newly to search for unfamiliar economic terms, but interesting news headlines caught my eye. After randomly clicking about, it was suddenly 3:00 a.m. I tried to get a grip on myself to write a report, but I just kept repeatedly typing and deleting. Therefore, I logged on to Facebook again…
Is it similar to your typical day? It may just look like a normal daily routine for any of us, but there is one thing in common, the Internet. At this moment in 2012, the Internet is everyday life. Besides, smartphones, ‘the revolution in the hand’, have emerged in recent years. The portability of the smartphone helps people access to the Internet easily. As a result, many of us start and finish our days by confirming newsfeeds and notifications on Facebook. In other words, the Internet has fully become a part of our everyday lives.
The reason for reading this book
Last winter vacation, I did not read many books or newspapers. Though I did not carry books in my bag, I always carried smartphone in my pocket. I think I might have been addicted to my smartphone at that time. When the vacation was about to end, I found out that I have trouble reading a book printed on papers. Despite trying to concentrate on the book, I often thought about something else or read the same passage over and over again. I blamed myself for putting off reading books during vacation. Just in time, I came across the book named <The Shallows>, which translates into Korean as <People who do not think>. It was a good timing that I found this book because the author Nicholas Carr’s claim that ‘The Internet changes people’s brain structure.’ gave comfort to my deep remorse. His claim gave me an excuse for the reason why my brain was becoming sluggish. It was because of the Internet, not because I was not reading books. At the second glance, however, his claim became a serious problem for me. As time goes by, I will naturally use the Internet more and more. According to Carr, my brain will gradually become more and more foolish! I started to have doubts about the temptation of the Internet and I decided to read this book immediately.
What the author claimed
Carr explained what is happening in our brain, paying attention to the fact that the way people read, think and write has changed as the Internet access has grown. He said we no longer read something as deeply as we used to on papers. Thus, we spend less time on contemplating and our insight to read long passages has disappeared. The ability to concentreate on something has been weakened. Now we just read a small amount and required information by quickly scanning the screen. In addition, we just roam randomly on the Internet along the information connected to links and hypertext without thinking critically. Also, the ever-changing pop-up advertisements, photos and videos provide lots of visual stimulation for us. Because of these things, our brains have been more distracted and eventually, our concentration is widely dispersed. Many Social Network Services (SNS) dominate our ongoing interests by using interactional and real-time capabilities as their weapons. So we are now obsessed with sharing whatever little things may interest us at that moment through various SNS platforms. Finally, we cannot give them up easily due to extreme anxiety about falling behind in regards to communicating with other people. Writing styles as well as reading and thinking styles will change. Since digital documents can be modified at any time, it has reduced the pressure to be perfect at once and to have artistic rigorousness from authors. Also, formlessness and instantaneity on the Internet have made expressive and rhetorical writing almost disappear.
How to accept the Internet
Through a variety of brain science theories and examples, Carr analyzed and criticized the phenomenon that we do not think as much as we used to. As you know, the Internet and digital media will continuously become a more intricate part of our lives. If we did not use the Internet, we would fall behind in competition with others. Then, what should we do? Carr frankly admitted that he also cannot give up the Internet and other media outlets, and he never did provide a suitable alternative for the Internet. Through an interview with some media source, however, he said “The best way to wisely accept information technology is to have doubts. If technology becomes more important in a society and its benefits increase, people should be more critical.” In other words, we have to judge what we lose due to the hailed new technologies and have to consider how much we have lost by using them. Carr often quoted <Understanding Media> written by Marshall McLuhan. Among its contents, he introduced this phrase as the most insightful part; “A tool we have will eventually paralyze any part of our body where this tool amplifies its functions.” In other words, if we think, without a doubt, human factors such as thinking, remembering and recording are no longer necessary or useful. Also, if we eventually delegate all intelligent tasks to computers and the Internet, artificial intelligence would replace our own intelligence.
If you cannot even concentrate for a short moment, if you seem to be more forgetful these days, if you are anxious without your smartphone, you should read this book. If you access Facebook too much, if you have trouble thinking deeply or if you have seen many things on the Internet but have trouble retaining anything properly, you have to read this book. While reading this book, think about why you have become just the way you are. Reflect on yourself whether you have been praising the infinite mercy of the Internet undoubtedly. I hope that you can take back your brain after reading <The Shallows>.