Sunday, February 20, 2011

The internet is making us more distracted. Is it also making us more callous?

We've blogged before about researchers who claim that the internet is rewiring our brains to make us more distracted and thus less able to engage in deep thought.  Among the more popular books on the subject is The Shallows by Nicholas Carr.  If you've ever read the online comment section of many newspapers and blogs, you probably won't be surprised to learn that Mr. Carr and others think the internet is also making us more callous.  From a New York Times Op-Ed called "Stars and Sewers" about online reader comments related to the Lara Logan story:

Online anonymity has created what the computer scientist Jaron Lanier calls a 'culture of sadism.'

. . . .

Nicholas Carr, author of 'The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains,' says technology amplifies everything, good instincts and base. While technology is amoral, he said, our brains may be rewired in disturbing ways.

'Researchers say that we need to be quiet and attentive if we want to tap into our deeper emotions,' he said. 'If we’re constantly interrupted and distracted, we kind of short-circuit our empathy. If you dampen empathy and you encourage the immediate expression of whatever is in your mind, you get a lot of nastiness that wouldn’t have occurred before.'

You can read more of "Stars and Sewers" here.


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