Monday, December 19, 2011
Myth: The Internet Is Making Us Dumber
If you're familiar with the term "sweeping generalizations," this myth is one of them. Any claim that takes on a large entity and attempts to boil it down to a single, simplistic conclusions is bound to be wrong. This is how we end up with stereotypes. Claiming that the internet is making us dumber could have the glimmer of truth under specific circumstances, but so far no research points to any significant 'dumbing' down of the sort.
The reason we find it easy to believe the internet is making us dumber is because, in some ways, it's making us less self-reliant. Our GPS devices navigate for us and we neglect to remember things because we have Google search. That doesn't make us dumber, necessarily, but rather causes us to rely more on transactive memory. This type of memory is actually very useful because it allows us to, in essence, store more data in less space. Instead of remembering the contents of an entire article, we can simple remember the name or a few key words that we can entire into a search engine to pull it up.
This comes with the obvious downside of lacking the full recall for actual information in your brain, which is why many people feel the internet is turning us into idiots. When our access is cut off, suddenly we're bereft of our knowledge because our transactive memories are rendered useless. The reality is, without actual proof that the internet is making us dumber, so far it appears that the entire idea hinges on the evolving manner in which we interact with and access information as opposed to any sort of fact, making this more of a cultural claim than a scientific one.