Last year we wrote about the growing use of the Internet by seniors and the values it offers, from information, to inspiration, to instant research, to social networking, and more. All that being true, let us consider the following adverse impact that the Internet can have on our life at any age.
An acclaimed book by the author (Nicholas Carr) of the provocative magazine article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” argues that our attachment to the Internet and other digital technologies is reducing our attention span and, thus, our capacity to think deeply. This shallowness may be decreasing the wisdom we can bring to bear on important personal, social, political and environmental matters.
“The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” by Nicholas Carr (available as e-book and hard- and paperback), has caused a stir because it puts into words a disturbing concern shared by many. Enormous amounts of information have become instantaneously available almost everywhere via cable, cellular and satellite transmission. It is easy to flit from one fact, story or opinion to another, often with little real attention paid to the bigger picture. Many people already have little or no time or tolerance for leisurely, in-depth reading and reflecting on matters of great personal or societal import.
Thirty-eight percent of those 65 and older spend a couple of hours a day on the Internet, according to the Pew Research Center. Nearly half of people ages 70-75 go online, and 60 percent of adults access the Web wirelessly on laptops and mobile devices.
More and more, people interrupt conversations and disturb others in public places to check incoming text messages. As wondrous, engaging and practical as this access to information and entertainment can be, many feel the need to at least occasionally disengage from the Web to tend to their inner lives and the outer world. However, the habit and the temptation to sneak a look often win out over planned mini-sabbaticals.
Some point out that before the Internet onslaught, many people spent hours mesmerized by television, not known for deep content. However, more pervasive than television, the Internet keeps adding more streaming, as well as downloadable videos, movies and television shows to all the other forms of information and entertainment (sometimes sublime, but often ridiculous) that it offers.
Many people, including seniors, either do not use or only minimally use the Internet. Separate from the issue of how the Web affects the depth of our reading, thinking and dialogue is whether we are committed to and actually making time for such activities.
Have we been meaning to read and reflect on a special book that sits untouched; to think through and act upon a personally important issue; or to have a leisurely conversation with a trusted confidant about something of great import? Perhaps today is the day we will do so, without any Internet distraction.
Sandy Cohen & Roger Cormier
(email: [email protected];
free blog: www.starguide4growingolder.wordpress.com)