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The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains - N.Carr

Greetings Everyone!

Before I get into this one, I wanted to share that the book I read following The Lucifer Effect was Conscious by Annaka Harris which I finished the last week of January, it was a quick two day read. I am currently reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, which I am loving right now, about halfway finished! The plan for blog post 3 was for The Shallows, so let us begin.

Random Thought/Perspective: I consider reading as one of the best yet laziest ways to learn. How I justify that is, the authors gather a shit ton of related information/facts regarding the subject or ideas that interest the reader and put it all together. What can be better than reading and laying on the couch? Well shit, I guess you reading this while I tell you about what I read. lol

Another thing I want to put out there is that the first two posts were "freestyled" in a sense because I just hopped on my laptop and typed what came to my mind. This post however has been rough drafted and a little better prepared lol. I hope you all enjoy!

The book for this post was the first one kind of randomly mentioned in the second post. Today we have The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. Another new note I want to add is that this a paperback copy, I prefer those over hard copy because they cost less lol. This book was released in 2010, a New York Times Bestseller and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. I started this book on 04/19/2020 and finished just over two weeks later on 05/05/2020. There is 228 readable content (once again excluding notes, etc) and spanning 10 chapters. When I took this book off the shelf it had a lot of sticky notes and I'm not sure why I went sticky crazy other than to say it is a good book.

So, for this book, the first crowd I want to recommend it to is the parents. Especially the millennials, with all other generations that follow. The main reason is the propensity children have to be glued to an ipad, iphone, and laptop. Their are long and short term effects of the accumulated time spent staring at the bright screens. A short term effect is sleeping being altered and/or delayed by the blue lights in the display screens. Brain synapses are also under configuration with the effects of internet usage. Also, with the landscape of the current pandemic, screen time with computers and phones are at an all time high because families are sitting home from work and school. With that info, I just want to say read more for yourself and your children! Still unclear on a grading system with the second book review underway lol, but this book was very interesting and fun for me to read, being said...

Grade: A+ (first grade of this caliber)

In the prologue, Carr begins by citing another author on the very first page. This author is Marshall McLuhan and the book is Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, which was released in 1964. In this book, McLuhan basically poses good arguments (and warnings according to Carr) for both sides of the electrical technology on the horizon in this time era. This leads me to my first quote: "What both enthusiast and skeptic miss, is what McLuhan saw: that in the long run a medium's content matters less than the medium itself in influencing how we think and act. As our window onto the world, and onto ourselves, a popular medium molds what we see and how see it - and eventually, if we use it enough, it changes who we are, as individuals and as a society" (3). So, right when I thought this quote could speak for itself, I thought of an example of where young kids/teens killing and harming themselves over likes on social. Cyberbullying has resulted in other ugly unforeseen outcomes as well. Those are just two scenarios of how excessive internet/social media usage can and does change who we are as individuals and society.

A few sentences after that, this quote sits with me as well: "Our focus on a medium's content can blind us to these deep effects. We're too busy being dazzled or disturbed by the programming to notice what's going on inside our heads. In the end, we come to pretend that technology itself doesn't matter. It's how we use it that matters, we tell ourselves. The implication, comforting in its hubris, is that we're in control" (3). The very next chapter, Carr begins to detail how and why "someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming my memory" (5). Which he eludes to the point that the world wide web was a "godsend" to him as a writer yet so many notifications, emails, etc., strips his capacity for concentration and contemplation. My advice after this? Give the damn computer and phone a break and grab a book!

A couple of the introductory chapters spend time on the history of writing itself and how it traveled throughout mankind over many years, the inception of the book and printing press, then the first computer. Over time, the consistent use of the new mediums (books, tv, radio) in turn began to alter human being's way of life - as did the internet. I notice in a lot of books, despite the genre, the author spends some time discussing the relation of that topic to the brain and psychology in general. In this book that would be the relative effects of the internet to the brain. "When the Net absorbs a medium, it re-creates that medium in its own image. It not only dissolves the medium's physical form; it injects the medium's content with hyperlinks, breaks up the content into searchable chunks, and surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed. All these changes in the form of the content also change the way we use, experience, and even understand the content" (90). Basically, to me, he's saying when we take physical mediums (books, encyclopedias) and replace it with the Net for information, it becomes diluted and chaotic.

On the same page and the following paragraph of the last quote, I feel the point I just made can be reaffirmed. "A page of online text viewed through a computer screen may seem similar to a page of printed text. But scrolling or clicking through a Web document involves physical actions and sensory stimuli very different from those involved in holding and turning the pages of a book or magazine. Research has shown that the cognitive act of reading draws not just on our sense of ight but also on our sense of touch...The shift from paper to screen doesn't just change the way we navigate a piece of writing. It also influences the degree of attention we devote to it and the depth of our immersion in it" (90). Which for me reinforces the point of wanting parents to be aware that these electronic devices can alter their child's ability to focus and stay on task, as well as adults ourselves. Carr points to the "benefits"(my choice for quotes) of having the diverse options to be entertained with movie watching, reading, listening to music, and talking to friends and family without physically moving. Inactivity isn't healthy, which is a result of using these devices at times.

"It's not that we tend to use the Net regularly, even obsessively. It's that the Net delivers precisely the kind of sensory and cognitive stimuli - repetitive, intensive, interactive, addictive - that have been shown to result in strong and rapid alterations in brain circuits and functions" (116) . Time coupled with consistent dependency on the internet, we as humans will be directly impacted of its force upon us, positively and negatively. Carr points to the necessity that humans crave new information which is what the web offers. Once again, my hopes and wishes are to intrigue more people to read physical books and learn as much as you can! Reading books and gaining the mental fortitude helps you become a better deep thinker. Personally, I feel like reading helps you have more detailed, enlightening, and decent conversations with others.

The second paragraph of chapter seven poses a question for the reader: "What can science tell us about the actual effects that Internet use is having on the way our minds work?" Then he provides conclusions in studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, educators, and web designers about how the waves of online surfing hits us. "When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. It's possible to think deeply while surfing the Net, just as it's possible to think shallowly while reading a book, but that's not the type of thinking the technology encourages or rewards" (116). Considering the brain's plasticity and the sensory and cognitive stimuli effect by the Net, Carr makes a groundbreaking statement: "With the exception of alphabets and numbers, the Net may well be the single most powerful mind-altering technology that has ever come into general use. At the very least, it's the most powerful that has come along since the book" (I lost this page number lol). I'm inclined to agree with this sentiment.

Carr spends a chapter on the rise of Google, which is also a trendy topic , if you will, in some books. Another issue or thought I have with the internet and its technology is that, it replaces our memory in a sense. Who memorizes phone numbers any more? Or anything that a phone does now? People store a lot of personal info and tidbits on their devices. Leading me to bring in a nice quote: "The offloading of memory to external data banks doesn't just threaten the depth and distinctiveness of the self. It threatens the depth and distinctiveness of the culture we all share" (196). There is always a trade off of things in life, however we must train ourselves to be aware when the effects are harmful. Carr referenced a study at USC by psychologists where they found the more distracted we become, the lower our chances are to experience the subtle human forms of empathy, compassion, and other emotions. Not to mention, those zombie people walking with their head buried in their about to get hit by a car and bump a random person. I would like to cap this post off with one more quote and I won't analyze it, just leave it for thought. This quote is rather a reflection of my thoughts , while agreeing with it, I think this is one of the most beautiful parts of life and humans.

"Our ability to meld with all manner of tools is one of the qualities that most distinguishes us as a species. In a combination with our superior cognitive skills, it's what makes us so good at using new technologies. It's also what makes us so good at inventing them. Our brains can imagine the mechanics and the benefits of using a new device before that device even exists" (208).

If you made it this far, I really appreciate your support! Hope you enjoyed!

Peace. Love. Blessings


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