Yesterday I was arm distance away from The Atlantic Monthly’s July/August issue, and stopped dead in my tracks; eye level with the magazine, I read the title of the cover story, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by Nicholas Carr.
Carr writes, the Net is “chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”
I think I know what Carr means. My mind is often running ahead of me calling, “Hurry!!!” Come to think of it, sometimes I think I’m looking for hyperlinks where they don’t exist; I’m searching for twists and turns to unexpected destinations.
I google everything-people, places, directions, current events, history, restaurant reviews, movie times, businesses, store hours, physician’s credentials, conferences, research, authors’ bios, how-to unclog a drain, recipe ideas…you name it.
The Internet has made information wonderfully accessible, and I love it. I do. I love being an online tourist in the wee morning hours, or as a night owl. I love knowing there are people all over the world accessing information in different time zones, but essentially at the same exact moment. I love seeing the keywords people enter, how others search for information.
I think Carr’s question is a good one. I think his concerns about online reading shouldn’t be dismissed. But for me, reading online or with a book or magazine in hand, are two different things. While I love the online world, there’s still nothing like discussing a good book, hearing an author read, perusing bookstores and libraries, looking words up in a dictionary and thesaurus. And I may be one of a handful of people who actually like the Dewey Decimal system (and not know why).
I’d like to suggest Google and the Internet as a whole, have made us more efficient, smarter users of information, and have exposed us to an even larger world to be read. And, if that translates to Google making us stupid, well then I guess, I’m with stupid.