Week 8: Thinking with Machines – The Dark Shadows

*Note: Week 7 was Reading Week so we didn’t have any official readings. Instead, I wrote my second assignment based on the digital analysis of various news media outlets. Yes. Exciting.*

This week’s readings really hit my core being. I found myself nodding, laughing, then nearly crying. I believe I have become addicted to the Internet. Read my thoughts below and let me know what you think in the “Comments” section.

QuestionThink about the notion of “attention” and your own use of the Internet. Share some of your thoughts in the discussion forum.

I feel like my husband has written the questions this week. Am I on some sort of reality show? He’s always pestering me about being online.

“Can you put that away now? Can we sit down and watch a show? Why are you always on your phone?”

This seems to be a regular refrain in our household.

It’s true. I am online A LOT. If I’m not on my phone, then I’m on my laptop. I am either checking email, reading articles, listening to podcasts, or texting with friends. Lately, I’ve made a deal with myself that I will not check work emails after 8pm. Such an arbitrary time. Why 8pm? Why not 7pm?

But I digress …

I still check my email after 8pm; I just don’t respond until the next day. Yes I know … I clearly have a problem. But I am slowly working towards not checking my phone at all after work. Period. It’s just taking me a while to get my brain to understand this …

Carr’s article really resonated with me; I could have written it myself. You have to understand … I am an English Literature teacher. Reading is my life. But ask me about the last time I read a novel (answer: October). Like Carr, “my concentration … starts to drift after two or three pages” (2). I have stacks and stacks of books on my shelves: books I’ve purchased, books I’ve borrowed, books that have been recommended by friends and students. They will sit there until the next holiday when we are traveling and I won’t necessarily have access to wifi, thus being unable to surf the Web, thus picking up a book to read. (so many thus-es…)

My husband is not as active on social media as I am. He seems to think that I am obsessed with the Internet, which I guess is true in a way. What he doesn’t understand is how much this obsession upsets me. Don’t get me wrong; I am happy with my knowledge of current affairs, but I’m not happy with how the Internet has changed the way I read. Maryanne Wolf maintains that with the increase of online reading, “our ability to … make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged” and I tend to agree with her (4). How sad is that?

I am, however, feeling a little optimistic after reading the Nature article. Nick Bilton, author of I Live In the Future & Here’s How it Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain are Being Creatively Disrupted, believes that those who are “net savvy” have “brains [that are] learning, benefiting from practice and experience” (Bavelier and Green). Hooray for the Sage Surfer! (that’s me!)

Late last year, I decided to give up Facebook for a week (ooh! A week! How brave!!) I did it, but let me tell you, it was hard. I kept wondering what was happening, who was posting, what was I missing??

You know what I was missing? Nothing. Not a thing. After a week, I anxiously went back online only to notice that … nothing had happened. I don’t even think anyone realised I was offline. Now maybe that’s because it was only a week (a very looooong week), or maybe it’s because everyone is so caught up in their own lives that they didn’t notice. Either answer is valid. The question is: why did it bother me so much?

Is there an Internet Users Anonymous? I think I’d like to join.

Let me Google it and see where the closest location is …

Works Cited

Bavelier , Daphne, and C. Shawn Green. “Neuroscience: Browsing and the Brain.” Nature, no. 470, 2 Feb. 2011, pp. 37–38., doi: 10.1038/470037a. Accessed 28 Feb. 2017.

Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 2008, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/. Accessed 28 Feb. 2017.

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