Nicholas Carr’s most recent book, The Shallows, What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, is based on an article he wrote in 2008 that catapulted him to fame in the writing world. That article, Is Google Making us Stupid?, is a must-read for anyone who has spent time wondering if surfing the web is affecting our ability to immerse ourselves in a book or lengthy article.
Carr’s answer: It most certainly is. Surfing the Internet, he says, has profound implications on our critical reading capacity. This includes our Critical Reading skills-
“Reading … is not an instinctive skill for human beings. It’s not etched into our genes the way speech is. We have to teach our minds how to translate the symbolic characters we see into the language we understand. And the media or other technologies we use in learning and practicing the craft of reading play an important part in shaping the neural circuits inside our brains”
In effect, Carr says, we’re rewiring our brains in a way that we haven’t since the invention of the printing press, which led to everyone learning to read books. Now, he says, we’re learning only to skim information. It’s something Carr bemoans:
“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 could continue paraphrasing what Carr says in the article, but that’s exactly the thing he argues is making us read less. Better to point you to the article itself with a warning: it requires an ability to immerse yourself in a lengthy article.