Impact of Internet Thinking

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Impact of the Internet on Thinking | September 24, 2010 • Volume 20, Issue 33 | Is the Web changing the way we think? | |
By Alan Greenblatt OverviewRecently at lunch, Eric Wohlschlegel announced, “I have to take a BlackBerry pause.”Plenty of people interrupt social and business meetings to check messages on their mobile devices. There was a time just a few years ago, Wohlschlegel recalls, when his employer didn't require him to have a BlackBerry. Now, as a spokesman for the influential American Petroleum Institute, Wohlschlegel is expected to be in constant contact with the world at large, fielding some 200 work e-mails a day.He doesn't have the option of tuning them out. But when circumstances forced him to, he had a hard time
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Jeffrey Hill, a sociologist at Brigham Young University. “It enables just that kind of compulsive behavior.”There's now a serious debate going on within therapeutic circles about whether people can become addicted to the Internet in the way that they might become addicted to chemical substances. And there's a broader debate taking place about whether the Internet is changing the way people think.Much of that debate has been triggered by journalist Nicholas Carr, author of the controversial 2008 Atlantic article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” He has since expanded his ideas into a book called The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.Carr says the Internet is an unmatched tool for communications and information but argues that it can have bad effects on our brains. The Internet, he says, speaks to the parts of our brain that are attracted to movement, visual imagery and novelty — primitive parts of the brain that do not lend themselves to deep thought and contemplation.“There's a whole realm of thought that I think is very important to the richness of our personal intellectual lives, and also very important to the building of culture, that requires an attentive mind,” Carr said. “We don't want to sit alone in a dark room thinking about one thing all day long, but neither do we want to be processing a constant influx of texts and
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