The Shallows: How the internet is changing the way we think, read and remember


In Nicolas Carr’s Pulitzer Prize nominated book, he covers the malleability of the adult human brain by the internet. The way we use computers has made a measurable mark on the way our brain’s process information, and from the very start of the book, it’s easy to see how.

Carr broaches the subject by showing how he, and fellow media academics, we struggling to read, edit and digest text as they once had many years before. He wondered, maybe it was just his brain getting older and slower? But he was soon to find out that was not the case.

Previously we had thought the brain was formed in it’s adult maturity and final stage by the age of 25. Now we can see through advanced scanning and brain monitoring techniques that our brains continue to remodel and modify pathways throughout life.

This book is heavier reading than I would normally take on for leisure, but recommended by one of the many health and fitness accounts I follow online, I ordered the book on my mobile app and it arrived in hard, paper form a few days later. (Oh, the reach of the internet!)

I sat down that weekend, ready to read. As Carr explained how surfing the internet has made our brains jumpy, looking to click to the next subject, hyperlink after hyperlink – I was amazed. I just could not get my attention together.

He wrote it, I read it, and it became real through some kind of magic. He described the short attention span of internet users, and I tore my eyes back off my phone to finish the sentence.

It’s not all bad news, thank goodness. The way we use the internet makes us faster at locating relevant and relative information, meaning that we’re all more efficient researchers and workers than any other time in history. Projects that would have taken months of research and reading now take a matter of hours.

Carr surmises that reading and digesting large volumes of written information is a skill to be practiced by our brains like any other. Let’s just hope I can claw back enough attention span to ever finish a book again!

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