THE DIGITAL DIVIDE: “THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON THE INTERNET”
In The Dumbest Generation, Mark Bauerlein argued that the 24/7 social media immersion of today’s teens erodes their capacity to think critically and is creating a generation of narcissists. But in his new book, The Digital Divide, Bauerlein offers a more balanced perspective, highlighting a variety of nuanced arguments by established cultural commentators.
Below are two perspectives on the subject of the Internet and the Brain. Who do you think makes the stronger case?
“When the Net absorbs a medium, that medium is re-created in the Net’s image. It injects the medium’s content with hyperlinks, blinking ads, and other digital gewgaws, and it surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed. A new e-mail message, for instance, may announce its arrival as we’re glancing over the latest headlines at a newspaper’s site. The result is to scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration.”
– Digital Divide, p. 69, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, by Nicholas Carr
“Initially, the daily blitz of data that bombards us can create a form of attention deficit, but our brains are able to adapt in a way that promotes rapid information processing. According to Professor Pam Briggs of North Umbria University in the United Kingdom, Web surfers looking for information on health spend two seconds or less on any particular website before moving on to the next one. She found that when study subjects did stop and focus on a particular site, that site contained data relevant to the search, whereas those they skipped over contained almost nothing relevant to the search. This study indicates that our brains learn to swiftly focus attention, analyze information, and almost instantaneously decide on a go or no-go action. Rather than simply catching “digital ADD,” many of us are developing mental circuitry that is customized for rapid and incisive spurts of directed concentration.”
– Digital Divide, p. 95, “Your Brain Is Evolving Right Now”, by Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan