From Wired To Wireless
You’re Not Alone
Have you ever noticed yourself reading an article or paper and found that you are no longer paying attention? Or that you are online looking up information, and the advertisements get the best of you? Well if you have, you are not alone. Pretty much all humans do this now because of the power of the internet.
This distraction is the focal point of Nicholas Carr’s article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid.” Carr is well known for his interests and writings on how the internet is not only changing us as humans, but our culture as well. With the use of internet, we can see the changes, or lack thereof in social media activism and the it’s effects in the article “Small Change,” by Malcolm Gladwell. With these two articles, we can look at them in terms of Marshall Poe, another journalist, as he writes in his article, “The Hive.” “The Hive” shows the power of networks on the internet and the abilities they have.
The internet is a very powerful source to use with the amount of information it is capable of showing us, but many times, it is too distracting. With the utmost focus and lack of distractions, productivity can be much greater for any task you are set up to do.
Internet has become a real distraction in this day and age. Rarely can we focus on reading or doing assignments without feeling that our concentration fails. Nicholas Carr talks about how this happens to him and in his quote saying:
Concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle. (Carr)
I find that this happens to most everyone out there that I have talked to. This drifting and diffusion of our concentration is best described when Malcolm Gladwell says that the internet is best used because “it’s terrific at the diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, seamlessly matching up buyers and sellers, and the logistical functions of the dating world” (Gladwell). The internet is used for many of these things, but with the distractions of the internet in general, it is hard to focus. We are physically unable to focus ourselves when the internet is a distraction.
The distractions on websites, for example like hyperlinks, are also a main factor in the lack of focusing abilities. Almost all sites now have hyperlinks available to help with the navigation throughout the site and to others sites that have more information on the subject. Carr shows that it is as easy as “a few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after,” to find those quotes or anything he needed. Some sites people make are just filled with hyperlinks because “a wiki is a web site that allows multiple users to create, edit, and hyperlink pages” (Poe), and this amount of hyperlinks is contributing to the distractions.
Although I agree with Carr and Poe as they talk about the relatively easy way of using hyperlinks, I still maintain a stance that they are a distraction to the article in general. They are making people become very distracted from what they were originally looking for. Not everyone on reading the site needs to know where every piece of information is coming from. Most people are just going to these article based sites to read the article. Some even go just for the simple enjoyment of reading their chosen information. The use of just some hyperlinks, only where needed, are okay, but having too many makes it too messy and distracting.
Similar to hyperlinks, ads are now taking over and making distractions even greater. Ads are are sometimes the most exciting thing on a page when you are reading a boring article, but that is their purpose. They are there to distract us in a way to go to their site, or buy their products. Also it seems more reasonable that these days, ads are intruding on our personal space. I find it disgusting how many ads are on the page when you get there. Most times you have to exit out of an ad as soon as you open up the article. On top of that, there are ads at the top, sides, bottoms and now even in the middle of your chosen article.
These ads are being based off of what we like and are catered to us individually. As Carr proclaims, these ads are made to distract us and “the result is to scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration.” Some people think that these ads are a not such a bad thing, and that they are negligible if you don’t pay attention, but that just isn’t the case for most of us. They use special colors, blinking, and sound to distract us. Most of us use the internet to look up what we need and we want it fast. They are constantly changing towards things we would enjoy because they are being altered due to what we search on the internet, what sites we visit the most and things like our age and gender. Like Poe said, Wikipedia “offered a very rapid and economically efficient means to that end” (Poe), we are just trying to get our information and leave. We do not want to be distracted from our goal and end up in the ever present world of ads.
Distractions: Poor Quality Articles
Another reason the internet is a distraction is the poor way we go about reading our articles. No longer are we reading full, detailed, and credible information, but we are seeing news from social media, short articles in newspapers, and magazines covers. This makes me question the quality of the articles we read these days. It’s clear that “magazines and newspapers shorten their articles, introduce capsule summaries, and crowd their pages with easy-to-browse info-snippets” (Carr) just so we can breeze through and read. But doesn’t that make you wonder what the full story is? I agree with Poe in that Wikipedia is just a “place where all nominal information about objects of widely shared experience will be negotiated, stored, and renegotiated,” (Poe) but I feel that we should not stop being so lazy. This is in combination to us as we need to take our research seriously. It doesn’t pay off to only know the basics and common knowledge when it comes to writing papers. We need to use real, in depth pieces that will cover everything to be able to use it efficiently. We cannot let poor articles get in the way and distract us from the larger picture of productivity.
Not only is the internet changing itself daily, but it is also changing us as humans. We are no longer able to think and read in the ways we used to. The tools that we used to have in our brains are now “the tools that extend our mental rather than our physical capacities — we inevitably begin to take on the qualities of those technologies” (Carr).
Like the great example Carr used, we no longer use clocks as references, we now go strictly by the clock. This is when we get us, eat, work and go back to sleep. We are no longer listening to what our bodies are telling us, but using time as a measurement of when we need to do certain activities. These days we seem to follow patterns, and I find this much like the pattern of checking social media. Most days I go on social media not because I truly need to know what people are up to, but because I do it often and it had become part of my routine. I don’t even know most of the people on my friends list because as Malcolm Gladwell states, “facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook, as you never could in real life” (Gladwell).
And “by breaking down every job into a sequence of small, discrete steps and then testing different ways of performing each one” (Carr), we are changed as a whole. Carr talks in his quote about how we are falling into a so called “algorithm” in the way we do things now. So in a way, this internet distraction is rewiring our brains to continually change us and make us do things we normally would not do.
Distraction: Liking and Sharing
One other form of distraction in social media is the “liking” and “sharing” of pages on social media. This is when we “like” or “share” a page for a cause, thinking we are actually doing something to help. This in fact is not helping nearly as much as we would want it to. Malcolm Gladwell questions this as well while he talks upon other people that believe “the traditional relationship between political authority and popular will has been upended, making it easier for the powerless to collaborate, coordinate, and give voice to their concerns” (Gladwell), but like Gladwell, I do not agree. Like the title of his article, Small Change, this truly is only a small change. We need not get sidetracked in this petty “liking” but rather, go out and do something to actually help. These pages are just a distraction from what is really going on out in the world.
Many people hide behind these pages and think they are helping. We have the power to change what’s wrong in this world using these communities, as Poe says. Most times with these distractions we are unable to read an article long enough to know what to do to help. In a study by the University College London, they found that when readers are given articles, “they typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they would “bounce” out to another site” (Carr). If we are only reading a few parts from these articles we won’t have enough information to help. We have to use real life activism instead of falling behind the distraction of “liking” something.
As you can see, there are many reasons why distractions from the internet are a bad thing. There are too many distractions on sites from hyperlinks and ads. This goes along with the distraction of the way our brains process information now, and false helping with social media. The internet can be a great resource, but most times the information out there is being crowded with other useless information. It takes a lot of work, but there are ways we can overcome these distractions. Focusing is key to productivity and without that, we will get lost in the middle of distractions and find ourselves falling short of what we want to achieve. So should you ever find yourself distracted, know that you are not alone. Take a break and come back to regain your focus. Because that focusing will help you in the long run.
-Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 1 July 2008. Web. 22 June 2015.
-Gladwell, Malcolm. “Small Change”. The New Yorker. Oct. 2010. 22 June 2015.
-Poe, Marshall. “The Hive”. The Atlantic. Sept. 2006. 22 June 2015.