Damnit Google, What Are You Doing To My Brain!

Good Morning from Reno!

The colder weather seems to have ninjaed us, but there is some hope for warmth this weekend.

My apologies for not blogging in over a week! I’ll be getting back to 2 blogs a week before the end of the month.

I have finally finished tackling Nicolas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, and am extremely satisfied with the quality read that it provided me. I attempted to read the book during the course of the semester, but found it difficult to squeeze in between work and school, and am grateful that I was able to polish it off since things have calmed down.

In this age of technology overload, it was refreshing to find a printed book discussing the physical and emotional impacts that the “Google world” has on people. I have always been a fan of reading books (thanks to my mother and summer reading programs) and have noticed the drastic change that has taken place in my classmates and colleagues, even since starting college in 2005. Reading seems to be a thing of the past, and no one does it anymore. It is fascinating to me how many people wouldn’t crack open a textbook. Never mind the fact that people don’t read fun books for leisure anymore. It is almost as if reading is a dying art…

The basic premise of the book can be summed up in one brief and very powerful sentence… “Is Google making us stupid?” The short answer is YES!!!! As much as I like Google, the changes that I’ve seen in my own life in the past years are scary enough to make me wonder what kind of long term impact the Google phenomenon will have on our society.

The Shallows kicks off with a brief introduction discussing how concentration and the ability to focus has been severely impacted in recent years, and Carr even shares personal examples where he had a hard time focusing on the very book he was writing! Throughout the book, there are many references to how your brain flexes and grows over the years, as new information is added to the vast and seemingly endless library stored inside of our gray matter. I really appreciated the science behind these examples because Carr does a great job of tying physiological changes into the changes in our behavior.

“Our brains are constantly changing in response to our experiences,” and can clearly be seen in the way people obsess over their texting, continue to allow emails to interrupt them throughout the day, and even interact with friends and family. How often have you been at the bar when every single person you’re with has their phone out and is spewing out 160 character messages to their other buddies while holding two separate conversations with those at the table? Exactly.

I really enjoyed and appreciated Carr’s analysis of the influence of technological tools on our minds. We are so quick to integrate those tools into our lives that they quickly become, at the very least, habit, and at the most, engrained in our very existence.

Perhaps Nicholas’ greatest analysis was comparing the habits of modern people to cavemen of yesteryear. “We are evolving from being cultivators of personal knowledge to being hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest.” Bingo! Why should we bother to memorize something if Google can provide 62, 843, 791 results in under .04 seconds? As a society, we are losing the ability for “deep processing” and that will show its face in the not too distant future. There were many interviews included where doctoral professors at universities admitted that their ability to concentrate on academic readings is rapidly diminishing.

The greatest lesson that I took from The Shallows is that we are training our brains to be distracted. OMG TEXT MESSAGE! OMG EMAILS! Case in point…I challenge one of you to admit that you don’t actually drop everything you’re doing to check your phone when it alerts you to a new message… Nicholas Carr’s work really hits the nail on the head, and I am glad I purchased a copy of it in print instead of a digital version.

I’ve always believed that holding a physical copy somehow transfers the information into our brains for long term purposes, not just file it away in the “to be Googled” section. I encourage everyone to go out and pick up a good book this weekend (yes, in paper format) and read it for the sake of reading. We might not possess that skill for much longer…

What’s your take on electronic reading media? Did you use today to build or kill your brain cells?!

Photo credit


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