Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Shallows

For those who read nonfiction (some people just don't); for those who teach; for those of middle-age who suspect their brains are working differently than they did twenty years ago; for those who turn to Google every time some fact slips their minds; for those who check email and facebook every couple of minutes; for those who begin to feel withdrawal symptoms when they haven't been online in a day--

I recommend The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. It's changing my life--well, it's in the process of making me think about changing my life, because obviously I am still blogging about it which means I am on the Internet.

The book is about neural plasticity and how the Internet really is changing our brains, how we read (probably the worst effect), how we process, and how we remember. I happen to like the way my brain was before, but now I feel like it is a frenetic mess. I can feed my workaholic nature and work all the time. How I (think I) want to leave the computer at the office and come home and garden and cook! Yet, if I get on the computer at home, I can work at home and not go to the office--a Catch 22.

Multitasking is a farce, a fiction. We are deluded and deceived about our ability to juggle so many things. I am so tired of passing through a hallway full of students all intent on their little phones and gadgets and totally oblivious of the fact there are real human beings standing beside them. Who has time for real relationships with all these devices?

A colleague in the English department was bewailing that the students have no interstitial time. I like that word--in-ter-sti-tial. She means they never let their minds rest and reflect away from incoming messages on little screens. Shoot, I want it for them, but I want it for me, too.

Nicholas Carr gives us the science behind the reasons for our frustrations. He is making me face the facts and be honest about the way my life is controlled by my tools instead of the other way around.

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