So are we getting stupider? Is that what this is about? Sort of. According to The Shallows, a new book by technology sage Nicholas Carr, our hyperactive online habits are damaging the mental faculties we need to process and understand lengthy textual information. Round-the-clock news feeds leave us hyperlinking from one article to the next – without necessarily engaging fully with any of the content; our reading is frequently interrupted by the ping of the latest email; and we are now absorbing short bursts of words on Twitter and Facebook more regularly than longer texts.People were reading less even before the boon (or curse) of the internet. All the internet has accomplished is to accelerate the process, turning most of us into a gaggle of professional skimmers. Defenders claim more can be read in the same amount of time. In essence, volume is king. Time, valuable as it is, is to be commoditized, its benefits maximized.
Which all means that although, because of the internet, we have become very good at collecting a wide range of factual titbits, we are also gradually forgetting how to sit back, contemplate, and relate all these facts to each other. And so, as Carr writes, "we're losing our ability to strike a balance between those two very different states of mind. Mentally, we're in perpetual locomotion".
I’ve suffered from this malady for a long time. I use to believe that I needed to cram my head with all the knowledge that I could get my hands on in the shortest possible time. I realize now how much time I wasted with such nonsensical thinking. I learned that acquiring knowledge for the sake of acquiring knowledge is pointless.
Knowledge needs purpose. What that purpose is depends on the individual: it could be internal, external, or both. For me it is a bit of both: internally, for self-improvement; and externally, so I can better understand the world. And the only way to do that is to process the knowledge. And this takes time. Skimming bypasses this process all together.
We need people to think, not just consume.
[via arts & letters daily]