Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Internet Brain Rot

What? Did he just say what I thought he said?

Well, folks, do yourself a favour and read this article from Salon.com: “Yes, the Internet is rotting your brain”, by Laura Miller.

Now, you Internet lover, you, what do you think? Hot air or hitting the nail right on the head?

Here’s a personal observation. At one time, when I was playing in bands, I could carry around in my head the keyboard parts to literally hundreds of tunes, some of them very complicated and complex. Am I a genius? Do I possess a photographic memory? No. It was just something that hundreds of musicians do, if for no other reason than who wants to carry around all that music in physical form?

Now, when I play a gig (rare on keyboards these days), I usually use some music, at least rudimentary chord changes. There just aren’t that many I still remember and it takes me longer to memorize things than it used to. Why?

Maybe this article about a very interesting book has the answer: use it or lose it.

After reading the article cited above, I thought about my own personal reading habits and what the author describes about poor attention spans could well be written by me. I now find it hard to get totally lost in a book, reading for hours without realizing it. My mind does wander and I did think it was old age creeping up on me.

Now I’m wondering. Am I using the Internet too much? Read the article and see if you don’t begin to agree.

So tonight I am going to turn off the computer early (unless my writing is going particularly well), and spend some quality time with a good book.

It’s the least I can do to prevent Internet brain rot. I don’t want to become a statistic!

PS This entry builds on some thoughts Vicki has had lately about the deterioration of concentration and the future of long novels. Thanks to her for sending me the article and then allowing me to write a blog entry on it.


Charles Benoit said...

Pick up a book by Dickens or Proust and compare them in weight (not content, just pages) with current best sellers.

But the question remains: does size really matter?

peter_may said...

Hmmm. Not sure, Rick. I think the rot started a long time ago with television, when our dramas got broken up into bite-sized pieces by ads. When I started writing TV serial drama in the early 80's, there would be ten or eleven scenes per 30-minute episode. By the end of the eighties that had become 30 scenes. IN the space of ten years, people's concentration spans had reduced by about two-thirds - and that was before the internet even surfaced. I think the net just continues and expands the phenomenon. But I think age does it, too. I start to fall asleep after fifteen minutes (reading, not sex) - but maybe that has something to do with the wine!

Vicki Delany said...

I totally agree with this article. I see it in myself. I can't sit and read for half an hour without wanting to get up and check the computer. It interferes with my writing. I come in from the garden to check e-mail. When I was on a cruise recently I read a book a day, and loved doing it, at home that just doesn't happen any more. I do think the Internet is having profound changes on the way we thing. It might have started with TV but the Net is perfecting it.

Rick Blechta said...

I agree that it has something to do with the way the media and many art forms seem to put things together now.

Take music videos. The "jump cut" sort of editing has now become the norm in movie filming and editing. We took in Ironman 2 last night and my eyes were swimming after 5 minutes from the jerky editing. I counted over half a dozen camera angles in one shot lasting less than 10 seconds. That's just nuts.

So, yeah, Peter, it probably does go back to television, or maybe even further back to radio which is where commercial breaks began. It's only gotten worse over time to the point where a show doesn't go more than a few minutes without a commercial break. Couple that with jump cut editing and it's logical that people's attention spans are suffering.

As for the Internet, it's more of the same sort of thing. Ever notice that advertising now often covers over the copy, is annoyingly animated and sometimes can't be easily (or obviously) stopped?

Thanks everyone for commenting.

Maribeth said...

There are some heavy weight (number of pages) that I could not force my way through in high school. On the other hand, there are many that I read these days. I read three to five books a week. Many 500 plus pages and a few over a thousand. So I think as with everything else in life it's our choice -- to read or to surf.
I don't think you can blame a media because you lose interest.
I am over 60so definitely not a youngster.

Rick Blechta said...

I wouldn't be worried if it was losing interest. Believe me, I lose interest in a lot of things for various reasons, and usually not positive ones.

The concerning thing is that I lose concentration. I also am around a lot of young people and it concerns me that things have to be constantly shifting and changing for them to maintain interest, and their concentration generally stinks. Both my sons suffer from this, for instance.

Thanks for weighing in, but I have to respectfully disagree with you.

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