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Is the Digital Effect Making us Stupid?


Over roughly five or so decades ago, not even the most far-fetched of positive idealists could have foreseen how rapidly technology, and especially in the information sector, would grow. The epitome of this growth is perhaps the Internet, a vast field of boundless information that can be accessed by almost anyone. Its impact has not stopped on information alone, a new realm of connectivity has been brought about; first through the e-mail and later through real-time social media networks like Facebook (Thompson pp.1-6) and Twitter that are rapidly changing business, information change and interaction (Johnson para.3-9).

Negatives of technological advancements in media

The question of the impact of Internet on our brains has been viewed from manly two parameters, namely; how it affects people’s ability to do traditional activities and whether people can effectively cope without the Internet. Some observations decry the fact that things like reading a full story are not what they were before (Carr para.1-9) despite exposing one to more material. The family aspect has also been brought into focus through instances where enough quality time is not been spent as a family due to the demands of technological devices, inconveniently used in places like the dinner table (Richtel pp.1-5).

The ability to concentrate on one singular aspect has also been attributed to the Internet due to how it draws attention to various multiple aspects at a time (Carr para. 2-8). Tests carried out are pointing to the changing of the working of the brain for those who spend a lot of time in front of the monitor with a certain preference to multi-tasking various tasks.

Some have gone even as far as pronouncing the apparent death of various forms of art like music and writing. These crafts have to contend with the danger of their products being available over the Internet where other parties have posted them for free despite selling them legally online (Kakutani pp.1-3). A double-edged positive is a fact that such artistic work now has an easier to access and global platform, hence, more trash content is nowadays rather prevalent. This I feel serves to eliminate some sort of exclusivity when it comes to exploiting talents. The YouTube sensation is a good example of the potential of boundless creativity expanded through the use of home videos.

The main sticking point and which I agree with, is the problem of addiction. More and more people are coming to terms with the fact that they are spending a lot of time on the Internet, enough to be deemed an addiction (Parker-Pope para.3-10). There is growing concern among some Americans that the new technologies and devices like smartphones, despite making life relatively easier, are responsible for increasing stress levels and lower concentration (Connelly para. 4-8).

Are they right or justified?

The aforementioned negatives are reflective of the approach of scrutinizing the medium as opposed to the more common content analysis (Johnson pp. 34-112). The change to a new sort of medium fundamentally different from the existing forms is what may be attributed to the query on whether the Internet itself is making us stupid (Shirky para. 3-8). The statement bears some truth in that the more people use technology the more they become less aware of how to use other media in gathering information.

However I do believe that those vilifying the effect of the digital use are being quite unrealistic in their approach. In exhibiting a classic case of wanting to have their cake and eat it too, I fail to see how they do not realize that new media that make content readily and easily available must-have new pitfalls. I feel the debate has focused on the effect of the Internet on other forms of media rather than on its effectiveness in satisfying users’ needs.

Superior benefits

On the whole, I think that when examined with respect to other media of communication the internet is better and in a league of its own in terms of ease of access and other benefits. A very huge and obvious benefit is the availability of a lot of information over the internet. Excuses that the internet has a lot of trash are not viable and just like people learned how to read other forms of information, so they should learn how to effectively sift through the information.

Technology is responsible for making life more manageable through devices like the mobile and smartphones that can be likened to a personal assistants. They are making it easier to keep track of past, present and future activities. Decisions can therefore be made while taking into consideration various information that is a click away. In this respect it seems unfair to associate better technology with a perceived result of making us dumber.

These advancements have served to eliminate past struggles whose solving may have resulted in one being viewed as ‘smart’. A good example is navigating using a traditional map. This would have required some getting used to, but nowadays, people are lucky enough to have Global Position Systems (GPS) and even Google Maps hence making map reading somehow redundant. This serves to illustrate the fact that some fields of knowledge are being wiped out due as the world becomes digital.

Wrong question

The above examples typify the fact that measurement of intelligence is dynamic and that certain skills for certain generations are not relevant at all times. With this realization, I feel it is necessary to highlight that this serves as an example of how drastically perception of what intelligence is can shift.Skills that are therefore being acquired today by the technology-savvy generation would not have themselves been relevant a few decades back. They are part of an overall change that accompanies a media shift (McLuhan pp. 20-87).


The implication that the Internet is making us stupid is quite ridiculous, primarily because it is a result of smart people working hard to establish simple solutions for everyday use. Life does not become simple and stays that way, with these advancements there arise new challenges for which people should continually strive at solving. Technology represents a large change and it is therefore understandable that people are averse to the change in a way that is natural.

I sincerely do believe that the Internet is generally beneficial with a lot of possibilities, but just as with any other medium of communication, prone to abuse. It is also true that a lot of trash exists in the cyber world and that to gain useful information; one has to sift through a lot of content. Such challenges require renewed effort in order to address them effectively.

As a society we should recognize that the digital age is here for good and we should choose to accommodate it by adopting a better culture for its sustenance. Problems with addiction are similar to those that accompany anything good, but there is general consensus that devoting a majority of our time to it is rather detrimental to our core and intrinsic human values. This and many other issues call for a cautious approach to its use and underline the need not to be over-reliant on digital components that are a vital part of today’s world.

Works Cited

Carr, Nicholas. “Does the Internet Make You Dumber?” Wall Street Journal. 2010.

Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Atlantic. 2008.

Connelly, Marjorie. “More Americans Sense Downside to Being Plugged In.” New York Times.  2010.

Johnson, Steven. “How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live.” Time. 2009.

Johnson, Steven. Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter. New York: Riverhead Books, 2006.

Kakutani, Michiko. “Texts Without Context.” New York Times. 2010. Web.

McLuhan Marshall Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw Hill, 1964.

Parker-Pope, Tara. “Ugly Toll of Technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness.” New York Times. 2010.

Richtel, Matt. “Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price.” New York Times. 2010. Web.

Shirky, Clay. “Does The Internet Make You Smarter?” Wall Street Journal. 2010.

Thompson, Clive. “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy.” New York Times. 2008. Web.


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