Does the Net make people stupid? This question worries a lot of contemporary internet users. The idea of the digital storage of information and easy access to it was inspiring and promising at the beginning of the introduction of the Internet. It remains relevant to believe that the ability to find and use any information makes people powerful because, as the saying goes, knowledge is power. However, in his article Is Google Making Us Stupid, Nicholas Carr makes a research-based argument that in spite of its technological benefits to learning and rationally using the information available online, the concept of Net has a negative impact on human memory, the way of thinking, and, consequently, intelligence.
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Constant usage of online search engines negatively effects human ability to concentrate on one thing. Carr utilizes the first-person perspective writing technique to implement his personal experience that leads to the forming of his opinion on the topic. The author states that he found himself unable to be attentive enough while reading long texts or books with the same involvement and excitements as he used to do before Google. It seems like some external factors distract the “wayward brain” in search of “something else to do” (Carr). The results of the Internet behavior study made by University College London showed that the majority of users do not stay long on the sites with periodicals published and tend to “hop from one source to another” without rereading the material (Carr). The author underlines the importance of this research as the proof of the overall tendency of online users to lose the capacity to concentrate and immerse in a cognitive process.
The thinking mechanism becomes depthless and tends to lose the feature of reflection. Media “supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought” (Carr). According to the author’s point of view, Google does not only give the opportunity to access enormous amounts of information in a few clicks. Its system of data layout influences the very way people think of and analyze the facts. Different sources are interconnected in the Net which is a new type of mind work. As in the net, the brain goes from one idea to another without any thoughtful consideration of their meanings. Such a tendency is not a rare occasion. Many reading literate people confessed that they started thinking differently with the emergence of Google (Carr). This idea implies that people become less independent in their thinking.
The features of memory also change rapidly causing the difficulties in memorizing and learning. The author considers the idea that Net is “remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory” (Carr). According to this thought, Google becomes a place of safety where one can instantly find any information. That is why, in the users’ opinions, it is useless to memorize it because once one needs a particular piece of knowledge, he or she can go online and find it. However, the memory is an integral part of any intellectual process. Relying only on the Internet, people lose the opportunity to have an independent scope of expertise.
Losing the habit to memorize information and relying on the internet, people diminish their ability to generate their own thoughts and critically access the ideas of others. Carr refers to Maryanne Wolf, a specialist in developmental psychology, who studied the relations between reading and cognitive skills. She stated that deep reading forces the brain to make “rich mental connections” and retrieve implied senses encoded in the text (Carr). Without constant intellectual practice, the mind loses its flexibility. Consequently, people look for the easy way of retrieving the information becoming dependant on the thoughts of others.
The society of the modern world feels the inevitable impact of the Internet and changes according to its system of work. The author uses emotionally colored language to underline that “the crazy quilt of Internet media” shapes people’s attitudes to everything that happens around them (Carr). The way people act also adjusts to the way the Web functions. It is observed in the reduced text messages, popular abbreviations, shortened headings of the newspaper articles (Carr). People try to compress the words and time to fit into the fast and changeable informational world. Thus they start becoming machine-like, unable to reason or deeply analyze and only capable of scattering in the net.
Concluding the analysis of Nicholas Carr’s article, Google as a web search engine allows users to reach any source of information, thus lowering the level of their thinking, reading, and reflecting skills. The author provides his considerations with research data and historical facts thus contributing to the efficiency of his argument. Carr’s argument effectiveness is based on the scope of writing techniques he utilizes. The first-person perspective allows him to influence readers with his personal experience and make them accept the writer’s point of view. His metaphoric and emotionally colored language also contributes to the appeal to readers and the overall effectiveness of the argument. The power of the human mind is not in the ability to find the information but in the intellectuality that allows analyzing and using it properly. Technology simplifies peoples’ lives in many ways. However, assuming the argumentation presented by Carr, it also reduces the humans’ ability to perform such complex mental actions like deep reading, critical thinking, the creation of new ideas, and contemplation. All of these processes make an intelligent human being. Without them, the humanity will become stupid.
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Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Atlantic, 2008. Web.