Is the Internet Changing the Way We Think? Research Paper

Pages: 7 (2304 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Education - Computers

¶ … Internet Changing the Way We Think?

Today, the internet has become a conduit of sorts for the exchange of information from all corners of the world. In a big way, the internet continues to ease access to information from a variety of sources. This is largely desirable. However, there are those who are convinced that such convenience has come at a price. With that in mind, questions are being raised on how the internet is impacting on our capacity for both contemplation and concentration.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Research Paper on Is the Internet Changing the Way We Think? Assignment

In a way, the internet is increasingly becoming addictive for most people. According to Tun and Lachman, "...surveys show that adults of all ages have embraced the computer and the internet…" (560). Further, as GreenBlatt notes, were individuals to be asked to choose between living without the internet and living without a television set, most would prefer living without the latter (787). These were indeed the findings of a poll undertaken by Arbitron and Edison Media Research (GreenBlatt 787). In a way, this is an indicator of how powerful the internet has become. Given the prevailing trends, the growth of the internet does not show any sign of slowing down any time soon. As Kittelson had already pointed out several years ago, regardless of the fact that millions of people across the globe were plugged into the internet at the time, the numbers of those plugging into the same could over time increase exponentially (277). This prediction has become to pass. Unlike in the past where printed books were the main sources of information, we rely on the internet today for almost everything from entertainment to communication to accessing all kinds of information. In reference to the internet, Kittelson more than a decade ago pointed out that "…we find it somewhat frightening because we don't know where we are going with it and what it is doing to us" (277). Today, some authors and researchers are confirming the fears Kittelson may have had at the time. What continues to attract the attention of researchers is how surfing the internet impacts on both the brain functioning and behavior of people. Amongst those worried by the impact of the integration of technology and most particularly the internet into the daily lives of millions of people across the world include but are not limited to behaviorists, scientists and educators. This group of people has one shared concern; is the constant exposure to the internet going to have a negative impact on the normal functioning of the human brain? Will such exposure affect spatial awareness of individuals? Nicholas Carr is one of those convinced that the internet "can have bad effects on our brains" (GreenBlatt, 776).

The Impact of the Internet on the Human Mind: A Concise Discussion

According to Kamel, the internet is changing almost everything from the way we participate in debates to the way gather information and obtain education (37). Some of the sources I cite in this text were accessed from the internet. In carrying out this research, I found it relatively easy to find information pertaining to how the internet is altering the functioning of our brains. Thus when it comes to accessing information and views from a wide range of sources, the relevance and power of the internet cannot be overstated. However, there is a downside to this according to Nicholas Carr, one of those who are convinced that the internet could be altering the way we think. To some extent, I agree with him. In the course of my online research, there was no end to the distractions vying to get my attention. Several times, I found myself clicking hyperlinks that had nothing to do with my research. According to Carr, this constant distraction that is characteristic of surfing is what is slowly altering our minds (Carr, n.p). In Carr's own words, "when we're constantly distracted and interrupted, as we tend to be when looking at the screens of our computers…, our brains can't forge the strong and expansive neural connections that give distinctiveness and depth to our thinking" (n.p). The author further notes that as a result, "our thoughts become disjointed, our memories weak" (Carr, n.p). Thus should my research using the internet as my main source of information become habitual, my depth of thinking according to Carr would be significantly affected.

It is important to note that in the advent of the internet, people are slowly shunning other information sources. Why would anyone go to a brick-and-mortar library when all that is needed to access troves of information is to Google for the same? We seem to be moving away from the traditional way of accessing information i.e. via books. However, with this trend, our ability to concentrate on any specific task is fast diminishing. It is becoming increasingly difficult for people connected to the internet for long periods of time to pay attention most specifically to texts. Studies have shown that those used to reading words printed on pages have a higher ability to comprehend than those who access texts with a significant number of links (Carr n.p). It is these links that lead to cursory learning. With such kind of learning comes distracted and hurried thinking. This is what is contributing to the alteration of our minds.

Apart from Carr, other researchers, authors as well as scientists have also sought to determine the impact the internet has on the human mind. However, it should be noted from the onset that the level of research carried out in this area is still largely insufficient. Some of those who undertook earlier research in this area include Dr. Gary Small and his team of psychiatrists. In one particular study by Smith et al., a dozen internet novices and another dozen expert internet users were teamed up in an activity that required both groups to use Google (117 -- 125). As both groups used the search engine, they had their brains scanned. A number of days later, both groups had their brains scanned again under similar conditions. However, the difference between the first scanning and the second scanning was that after the first scanning, the inexperienced group was asked to spend sometime online every day. The results were surprising. During the first scanning, both groups exhibited key differences in a brain area referred to as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. While the same brain area of the novices exhibited minimal activity, that of the internet experts exhibited maximum activity. During the second scanning session, mental activity in both groups was identical. According to Small et al. this study is an indicator that when compared to reading, internet searching comes across as being more stimulating (125). This in my opinion is a classical demonstration that in some way, the brain can indeed be rewired by internet activity.

In yet another study undertaken in one of the American universities, Carr notes that a class was split into two with one half of the class being allowed to utilize laptops that had internet connection while the other half was instructed to keep their computers shut (n.p). This exercise was to be performed during a lecture. In this particular study, the performance of those who did not utilize laptops as the lecture progressed was much better than that of those who were permitted to use the same device during the lecture. In the opinion of Carr, experiments carried out over time have revealed that reading comprehension is negatively affected by the presence of a high number of links in any given document (n.p). The author further notes that people remember less of what they observe or see when a screen is littered with all kinds of information (Carr n.p). This is typically what takes place when browsing the internet.

There is also the issue of the plasticity or adaptability of the human brain. As Naughton notes, emerging technologies like broadcast media and printing have effectively reshaped humans (n.p). This particular assertion by Naughton however seems or appears to be in conflict with the views of Bavelier and Green who are convinced that the fundamental abilities of the brain do not appear to be impacted upon by technology (38). In his article, Naughton further points out that neuroscience in the opinion of Carr has clearly indicated that the neuronal structures can be altered or changed by those practices viewed as being rather habitual (n.p). To highlight this assertion, the author points out that from a structural perspective, the brains of those individuals who can read largely differ from those of illiterate individuals (Naughton n.p). Still on the adaptability of the brain, Horstman is of the opinion that "extensive time spent online must be changing the way the brain processes information, so it must be also be changing the physical brain" (57).

However, there are those who are convinced that the internet has no impact at all on the way people think. One of those convinced that the internet has had no impact at all on the way… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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