Beware the Internet, it’s rotting our brains…

Beware the Internet, its rotting our brains, or at least reprogramming our neural pathways to work in different ways. So say writers like Nicholas Carr, Andrew Keen and Clay Shirky. The concept isn’t that difficult to believe. As a species we’re designed to evolve and the societies in which we live don’t stand still either – they evolve and morph – as evidenced by changes from oral to print traditions – from agriculture to industry. There’s an inevitability about the digital challenge to the printed page – and whether it’s academic research like the CIBER report or writers like the above named – I can’t help but agree – the Internet is changing the way I work and the way I think and the way I live my life. I’m permanently online and if I’m not I miss it. I’ve become accustomed to Internet access. My mobile technology means I can be on the move and still in touch with email, facebook, twitter, bbc news, igoogle, itunes, local traffic updates, the list is endless. I don’t use Google Latitude but it’s a prime example of digital lifestyle meets social media equals Wow! The only time I’m free of the Internet is when I’m travelling and then I deliberately cut the link; otherwise I can’t absorb the strangeness of different places, I can’t leave behind the problems and the daily grind. I can’t feel a different country and its culture. But the minute I’m home the laptop is on and I’m reconnected.  

There is something about the mass of information on the Internet that’s addictive; the continual process of linking, the search for the next bit of content which will have exactly the answer I’m looking. It encourages surface browsing with the resultant sore eyes from too many hours at the screen and a dull headache from a surfeit of mental stimulation and resultant ideas. At least, that’s how it is for me. But at least I know the Internet is a machine. It has no morals or values or empathy. They are our responsibility; it’s up to us to ensure our digital experiences are for the better and not the worse. 

We’ve come a long way from the weekly trip to the public library. I’m not suggesting we should go back; revisiting the past is never a good idea. We need to stay in a forward trajectory but we also need to remember our analogue roots. People matter, health and relationships matter, the Internet is no substitute for family and friends.

It’s Friday night and it really is time to open the wine and close down my browser – now where did I put my phone???

2 Replies to “Beware the Internet, it’s rotting our brains…”

  1. Hi Sue, Lovely to be reading your blog! I just wanted to comment on our notion that “I know the Internet is a machine. It has no morals or values or empathy. ” I find this interesting as I always thought of the internet and www as two separate but inter-linked components. The latter made possible by the former. While I agree that the internet is a machine (hardware), I think that the WWW (software/ content) carries values, morality and empathy. I think it quite possible that much as music transmits values, so too does other forms of media whether it be text or multimedia as they are all constructed in some way by human carriers of these values. To my mind all content, digital or otherwise, is never neutral.

  2. Hi Andre
    You are right, the technology isn’t neutral. Bjiker (1987) calls this the ‘social shaping of technology’ where the technical devices reflect the social environment in which they are developed and as you say – it’s the content which mirrors existing social structures and values even more so. I was particularly interested in your comment about music as a cultural transmitter. All to often I work with words and forget the power of music so that is a useful reminder – thank you.
    I thought it was an excellent conference last week and it was good to meet with yourself and so many others who have a shared interest in the use of digital resources for teaching and learning.
    Best wishes

    Bijker. N.E., Hughes. T.P. and Pinch. T.J. (Eds), The social construction of Technological Systems, MIT Press, 1987

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