The impact of Internet on the way we process information
Last week Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains, was in Denver for a reading at the Tattered Cover. I was first introduced to Carr via his Rough Type blog. Before his book tour and high-profile reviews in the New York Times and elsewhere, he would often write about cloud computing, privacy issues and other tech concerns covered in his earlier book, Does IT Matter?
The Shallows expands beyond technology services and leadership to discuss the impact of technology, namely the Internet, on the way we think and consume information. Wow! Who knew that all of my Google alerts, Skype calls, eBay messages, Digsby and Outlook updates could be changing the way I think? Actually, I did.
For the past few years, each new application that I added to my computer or iPhone would make me stop (sometimes abruptly) to figure out a new way to manage my online life – resulting in new distractions and also impacting my offline time. Rarely would I have uninterrupted time to dedicate to work or personal projects, unless of course, I committed the desperate move of turning off all of my gadgets.
Why are we so easily distracted by our technology?
Carr addresses this question in The Shallows and begins his discussion back in the 15th Century with the development of the printing press. Carr argues that the rise of the Internet in late-20th Century was equally as significant as the introduction of the printing press. The Internet inundates us with distractions and we are now faced with a barrage of information.
This juggling act provides greater access to information than ever before, but also relegates us to a constant state of short-term information management. We are no longer encouraged to engage in deeper thought or introspection, making it harder for us to commit all of this information to long-term memory and distinguish between trivial vs. important details.
So, how do we get back to a place where we can take the positives of both the book and Internet to create greater balance? Carr suggests personal discipline, but also increasing awareness of the Internet as a tool and not as a way of life. I realize though that not everyone has the option to disconnect – particularly in the PR world where reporters are often on deadline and news is available 24 hours a day. But, if we cherish more offline time, Carr recommended that we back away from our keyboards and practice calmer thinking, while also using the Internet as a ready-reference for information and channel to connect instantly with friends, family and peers.
So, in that vein, I’m writing this blog post while on vacation in Crested Butte. Yes, it would have been nice if I had finished it while still in the office, but baby steps. I’ve now turned off my e-mail alerts, declined all meetings and have a frothy latte in front of me while I reflect on Carr’s comments from last week and share them with you all. Tomorrow, I’ll try not to turn on my computer at all – wish me luck!
~ Kimmie Greene