Is Google making me stupid?

When I read about New Communication Technologies, I can’t help but think about how they relate to my own habits. Two ideas that resonated with me more than any others were the multitasking and search engine stupidity articles.

I’ve always known I’m terrible at multitasking. I need to be able to focus on one thing at a time, and anything in the background fuzzes out to be insignificant. This doesn’t just involve New Communication Technologies; I cannot hold a conversation with someone while typing an email and I get lost and confused if I’m attempting to watch a Netflix drama and checking Twitter at the same time. (Although each and every time, my mind convinces itself that yes, I can perform both of those tasks simultaneously.) When it comes to Clay Shirky’s policy of having no electronic devices in the classroom, I understand his argument and am at the same time frustrated by it. Because my world as a newspaper editor requires me to be easily contactable if needed, I often despise the idea of having electronic devices turned off. However, I too tire of needing to be constantly connected all the time, and enjoy the excuse of class as a reason for not having to check text messages or Facebook chats that often leave me overwhelmed at the attention I’m expected to dedicate to them.

Where Nicholas Carr and his idea that Google is making us stupid and changing our brains, I can see some of his argument reflected in my own life. I too often scan through documents looking for keywords and have a difficult time reading long-form works such as books and documents. With that notion in mind, I always feel smarter after I take time away from social media and my electronics to read a book. It almost feels like reading off of paper instead of a back-light LED screen allows for me to set the “reset” button in my brain. Where Carr claimed that Google is making us stupid, I think his point has merit – we certainly don’t need to memorize the same way we used to – but I think that point could be made by any information organization system. I don’t remember Calculus equations, but if I really needed to relearn complex math, I could just as easily go to the library and rent a book, in the same way I could Google the quadratic formula. The only thing that changes is the immediacy of the information gathering.

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