Posted by: chartroose | July 10, 2008

Overwired and Misread

Let me apologize in advance for this little phrase: …it’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all…  If you can find me, you can kill me for putting that tune in your head.   Just remember that I run very fast when terrorized!

Actually, though, it IS a small world (or maybe it’s just my schizophrenic brain that’s a small world), but whatever the case, I’m beginning to notice more and more that everything really is interconnected.  People think the same things at the same time.  That’s why it’s important for inventors to patent their creations as soon as they can, because other inventors are hard on their heels with the same idea.  Consumers are just stupid enough to buy the earliest release of this:  or this:  before they get wise and realize they’ve been ripped-off and swear never to purchase anything resembling that item again!

Okay, I think I’m finally getting to the point of this post.  Cripes!  About a week ago, I was reading about brain synapses (due to my schizophrenia problem, har).  Researchers now feel that our brains never stop changing and growing and developing, which flies in the face of what we’ve been taught about our brains hitting their peak in our late 20’s or early 30’s and then kind of falling apart after that (dementia excluded from consideration, of course).  This made me very happy since I’m forty-something and was starting to worry that, due to my misspent and lengthy adolescence, I may become a blithering idiot by the time I’m 50.  Now that I know I have nothing to worry about…hey, get your paws off my pipe!

Ahem, so I read about brains and then checked my e-mail, where I found a feed of this article by Mark Morford.  Mark, who was a lit major in college, hardly ever reads novels anymore because he feels that his brain is being rewired by the internet, and he’s sure he’s not the only nearly non-reader out there with this problem:

“Proof?  That’s easy: Just try to sit down with that dense copy of W. G. Sebald or Haruki Murakami after spending any portion of your week online, and watch as your Net-addled brain becomes almost instanly anxious and frustrated, eager after just a couple thousand words to jump away, ogle pictures, watch dumb teens humiliate themselves on YouTube, buy some shoes.”

I do all of the things Mark mentions in that quote!  It’s kind of frightening, and now I’m beginning to realize that, while I still read a lot, I’ve slowed down considerably since my teens and 20’s.  The biggest reason for this change in my reading habits is definitely the net.  I’m totally connected at work and at home, and when I’m not searching databases for information for clients, I’m playing games, blogging, reading and replying to blogs, scrolling through Amazon, laughing at YouTube, writing nasty e-mails to my ex ( = and generally wasting hours of my time allowing my brain to be rewired so that it can only concentrate on written materials in short bursts and can only listen to soundbytes.  I truly am a member of the Borg collective!  Are you?

So, I found out that my brain is working okay, but it’s being rewired.  In his article, Mr. Morford points us in the direction of this article by Nicholas Carr.  Mr. Carr asserts that the internet is dumbing-us down because we’ve learned how to “power browse” –just skim through titles and snippets of information until we find what we need and then focus on snippets of that as well.  With all this “snippeting” going on, we are losing our ability to concentrate, and thus, more and more of us find it difficult to sit down and read a book for a substantial stretch of time.  We have become less able to analyze and synthesize all of the information that is pouring into our brains, so it is also becoming harder for us to comprehend the material we are reading, or to even enjoy reading it.  This is getting scarier and scarier!  

Finally, in order to wrap this meandering post up, I visited Julie over at Bookworm today and read her great post about sci-fi movies.  In her essay, she mentions Wall-E, which is surprisingly thoughful for a cartoon.  The human characters in Wall-E are totally connected to the web.  They are huge, fat slugs that communicate electronically and are wheeled around on tracks in lounge chairs.  Robots take care of their every need.  Is this where we are heading?  Will we become so wired that we won’t read conventional novels any more?  Maybe the future of the book doesn’t lie with the way they are produced (as in e-books vs paper publishing), but rather in the way they are read, if they are read at all.  Maybe reading is evolving into something else altogether, based on a kind of “wordbyte” means of written communication.  Are little twitter snippets of words and sentences representative of the future of reading?  Can you say “text messaging,” boys and girls?

Can chartroose shut up now?  Yes, after this excellent conclusion:  We r Borg.  U wil b asimilatd.  Resistanz iz futil.

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Responses

  1. Ah, but there’s still hope for you. And for me. I don’t know about the rest of the world.

    I was typing up tomorrow’s post (which is that list from care’s blog), and I went back to her blog to grab her link, when I noticed your comment on Mitch Albom. I had already typed in my editorial comment on the book (I loathed it). Obviously, great minds think alike. 😀

    I’m convinced that book is on the list because of its mass popularity. And it’s popular because it’s short and trite and self-help gibberish, and people don’t have to think too hard. Which sort of relates back to the whole point of your post. I think. Time’s up, gotta go…

  2. lol @ your whole post

    and speaking of a small world, that’s the second time I’ve heard about the human slugs in Wall E (one of my occasional commentators left a comment on the post w/ my picture saying he expected me to be fat since I read so much…)

    I spend a fair amount of time on the internet, and it usually takes me about half an hour for my brain to calm down and slip into reading mode! Fortunately, after that, I can read Anna Karenina for hours (or that might have something to do with my desperate attempt to finish it before my trip…hmmmm…).

  3. Softdrink–Thanks! Great minds really DO think alike! Gawd, Mitch Albom is an offense to those of us who actually use our brains and I can’t believe he’s popular.

    Eva, who is that mean dude that assumed you’re fat because you like to read? I’d like to track him down and bitch-slap him for being such an arrogant ass! He’s probably just intimidated because you’re smart and adorable, while he’s some smelly 35 year old Neanderthal virgin who lives in his parent’s basement and plays D&D and hasn’t had a date since 1993! Grrrrrr!

  4. And isn’t it ironic that we started blogging so we could talk about the books we read.

  5. Har, yes it certainly is, Julie!

  6. Bridget Jone’s Diary and The Da Vinci Code were on that list, it can’t be taken that seriously.

    I tried to read your post…..but there were so many – – paragraph – – things….

    I tried to write this in Text but alas my Text lingo is limited to acronyms. The misspelling makes me CRAZY.

  7. This post made me laugh. But I am still skeptical that the net significantly alters our reading habits. I know that in one sense we have become faster (I read somewhere that our brains are able to assimilate visual/aural information must faster than people 100 years ago – which is one of the reasons why old films seem so slow to us now, for example) but I can’t believe we’ve become dumber. Maybe a little more inclined to laziness? It’s true humans like tools that make our life easier, we always have, but I don’t think we’re all headed for lounge chairs and robots to command (there are days, though, this sounds like heaven). I have to think we’re still engaged, analytical creatures – most people I know are like that. And your thoroughly analytical post here proves you are too! 🙂

  8. Hey, how ’bout it. I thought it was just my bipolar giving me the monkey mind (jumping from tree to tree), but the internet seems to be doing an effective job making everyone more like me. I feel almost normal now! Almost.

    It wasn’t that long ago I read a steady diet of the classics, mostly 18th and 19th centuries. Now, after reading so many contemporary books I find it difficult sitting down with a more dense work. My attention drifts off. I start thinking about what I need to do the next day, if I’m working, what we need from the grocery store, wondering what emails I haven’t read yet and popping off to read them, etc., etc.

    I don’t want to lose the ability to sit down and think deeply. That worries me. Being the way I am I’m challenged enough. Even with the meds my focus is almost non-existent. I’m working on that slowly, and it’ll take a long time to re-train my brain but I sorely need to cultivate the ability to focus or I’ll never accomplish anything.

    On the upside, hey, with all that going on in my brain I’m never bored.


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