Why The Internet Might Be Changing Your Brain For The Worse
Why The Internet Might Be Changing Your Brain For The Worse
By Neal Martin/ October 10, 2015
Last Updated April 26, 2023
Following on from my last article about how the internet sucks these days, I would like to discuss in this article the toxic relationship we have with the internet now, and some of the negative consequences of that relationship. If you value your brain, you are going to want to hear this.
The Internet Is Fucking Up Your Memory
In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, journalist Nicholas Carr, author of the bestselling book, The Shallows: How The Internet is Changing our Brains, says that technology driven by the internet is eroding our ability to concentrate.
“What we created with computers and the Internet was a system of distraction. We got the great rewards of having basically unlimited information at our fingertips, but the cost of that was we created a system that kept us in a state of perpetual distraction and constant disruption.
What psychologists and brain scientists tell us about interruptions is that they have a fairly profound effect on the way we think. It becomes much harder to sustain attention, to think about one thing for a long period of time, and to think deeply when new stimuli are pouring at you all day long. I argue that the price we pay for being constantly inundated with information is a loss of our ability to be contemplative and to engage in the kind of deep thinking that requires you to concentrate on one thing.”
It is hard not to agree with those observations. Anyone who spends lengthy periods of time online each day will recognize the truth contained within those words, even if you don’t want to admit it.
The End Of Deep Thinking
I myself have noticed a degradation in my own ability to concentrate these days, and I believe this is because I spend a lot of time on the internet sifting through the endless sea of information that lies there.
I believe that over time, this constant immersion in the sea of information has made it very difficult for me to just sit and be with my thoughts.
Constant internet use kills your ability to sit in quiet contemplation for any length of time.
In order to do any kind of deep thinking, you have to take the time to sit quietly so you can actually think in the first place. If you can’t sit long enough for the deep thinking process to happen, your thoughts can end up no more than shallow reflections of the stuff you take in online.
And you take in a fuckload of information every day. I know I do. Tons of shit.
We are all information junkies now, always in desperate need of the next hit. Information of itself is not enough anymore. It has to be new information to satisfy us. The more up to date, the better.
That is something else I’ve noticed about myself. I crave online updates all the time. I need to see what is happening, I need to find stuff out. Even when I find stuff, it’s never enough. Within seconds, I want something else new. It’s a constant, never ending cycle.
To quote Carr:
“One researcher from Stanford pointed out that the more you acclimate yourself to the technology and the constant flow of information that comes through it, it seems that you become less able to figure out what’s important to focus on. Instead, your mind gets attracted just to what’s new rather than what’s important.”
The Erosion Of Long Term Memory Retention
Having this constant stream of information essentially flowing in and out of your consciousness all day is also having a negative affect on long term memory.
“If you’re constantly distracted and taking in new information, you’re essentially pushing information into and out of your conscious mind. You’re not attending to it in a way that is necessary for the rich consolidation of memory.”
It is hard not to agree with Carr on that. The flow of information into and out of my brain never seems to stop. It can get very overwhelming at times, making it difficult to concentrate on any one thing, which also hurts my productivity.
The thing is, the internet has me so trained and so reliant on it, that I rarely feel any need to retain the information I take in.
Before the internet, if you wanted information, you read books and took notes, two activities that both promote a healthy brain response, helping you take the information in deeper so you can properly assess and evaluate it. Deep thinking, in other words.
Now, I just quickly scan all new information. If the information is interesting to me, I’ll make a mental note of it, or bookmark the source of the info on my computer. I do this because I know the information will always be there at my fingertips when I need to use it again. I therefore don’t think too deeply about any of it (unless it pertains to a particular problem I’m trying to solve, either in my writing or in my life. In that case, I will consider the information more deeply to try and extract answers from it).
Our Brains Are Changing
As a result of our internet driven society, it also appears that our brains are changing in order to adapt to this widespread habit of shallow thinking. It is a process called neuro-plasticity.
“Our brains adapt, but the process of adaptation is value-neutral — we might get smarter or we might get dumber, we’re just adapting to the environment.”
So it seems that even physiologically speaking, we are becoming more shallow human beings.
And how could we not, given the amount of media garbage that is poured on us every day of our lives. I’m not saying its all bad, but most of it is complete fucking shit that makes you dumber instead of smarter.
How are you supposed to get smarter, wiser or better when you exist on a steady diet of shallow, pointless nonsense? You can’t. You just end up being a shallow bastard who can’t stay away from anything with a screen for more than ten minutes.
So How Do You Stop This Brain Rot From Happening?
Stop using the fucking internet as much! Duh!
Seriously, it’s that simple. And also that fucking hard. Believe me, I know!
I’m not here to lecture you or to tell you to use less internet. I’m just letting you know the facts.
The more time you spend online, feeding your information habit and your need to be connected, the more your brain will change on every level, and you will become as shallow as the now corporate playground you spend so much time in.
I for one will be trying to change my internet habits. I want my brain back, the one that used to think deeply about things and not care that much about online updates on things I don’t really give a shit about when all is said and done.
I want to reclaim my overly distracted mind, rescue it from the chaos of the internet. It is my mind. I owe that much.
I want my mind to be like Chuck fucking Norris in Missing In Action, busting out of the POW camp that is the internet and escaping to freedom.
That’s the dream anyhow. Let’s see if it actually happens…
Here’s a video of an otter. It’s funny. Enjoy it before instantly forgetting about it.
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