The Internet–Is It Changing Us?


Well, between writing things for my blog and reading various articles of interest I’ve been spending hours a day on the internet. I’ve often asked myself if this is a waste of time or if this is making my world bigger. I have learned new words and discovered many different ideas on several topics. I do think there is a risk of an “echo chamber” with the internet. That is to say that you can have one train of thought and find many others with a similar train whereas in real life you may have others calling you out with counter information. So you’ve gotta seek out multiple points of view–always. This post is dedicated to different articles I’ve discovered asking google questions about the internet such as “Do people act differently online than in real life?” and “Is the internet making us smarter?”

Here it is:

“For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

–Nicholas Carr Is Google Making Us Stupid?

“….There’s no doubt that communications technologies shape and reshape society – just look at the impact that printing and the broadcast media have had on our world. The question that we couldn’t answer before now was whether these technologies could also reshape us. Carr argues that modern neuroscience, which has revealed the “plasticity” of the human brain, shows that our habitual practices can actually change our neuronal structures. The brains of illiterate people, for example, are structurally different from those of people who can read. So if the technology of printing – and its concomitant requirement to learn to read – could shape human brains, then surely it’s logical to assume that our addiction to networking technology will do something similar?”

–John Naughton The internet: is it changing the way we think?

“This summer, neuroscientist Ian Robertson polled 3,000 people and found that the younger ones were less able than their elders to recall standard personal info. When Robertson asked his subjects to tell them a relative’s birth date, 87 percent of respondents over age 50 could recite it, while less than 40 percent of those under 30 could do so. And when he asked them their own phone number, fully one-third of the youngsters drew a blank. They had to whip out their handsets to look it up.”

–Clive Thompson Your Outboard Brain Knows All

“To study what brains look like when people are searching the Internet, Small recruited two groups of people: one that had minimal computer experience and another that was Web savvy.

Members of the technologically advanced group had more than twice the neural activation than their less experienced counterparts while searching online. Activity occurred in the region of the brain that controls decision-making and complex reasoning, according to Small’s study, which appears in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Small said he can’t pinpoint why there was more brain activity in the experienced users.

“The way I theorized is that when we are confronted with new mental challenges, we don’t know how to deal with it,” he said. “We don’t engage neural circuits. Once we figure out a strategy, we engage those circuits. ”

–Madison Park Google does a brain good

“American college students today are addicted to media, describing their feelings when they have to abstain from using media in literally the same terms associated with drug and alcohol addictions: In withdrawal, Frantically craving, Very anxious, Extremely antsy, Miserable, Jittery, Crazy.

ICMPA LogoA new study out today from the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA) at the University of Maryland, concludes that most college students are not just unwilling, but functionally unable to be without their media links to the world. “I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening,” said one person in the study. “I feel like most people these days are in a similar situation, for between having a Blackberry, a laptop, a television, and an iPod, people have become unable to shed their media skin.”

–David Ottalini Students Addicted to Social Media – New UM Study

“Another development is that before, when we are interested with birds, in a city with 500 people, there are probably 2 people interested in birds. It might have been a very boring ‘bird watching’ group with 2 people. However, now, if you’re interested in bird watching, you can go to the Internet and join a bird watching group on Facebook, and instantly, you are connected to a lot more people who share the same interest.

The same is true for political interest, arts; pretty much for every interest you have, and you can find people with the same interests in just a few seconds. It also gives you power because if people with the same interests want to change something they have an action interest. You may call them a lobby group. Those people are connected and they can speak with one voice, and they don’t necessarily need a leader. This is another big and important change in the social component in the social media.”

–Martin Metzmacher How Social Media Changes the Way We Interact

“From his Meditationes Sacrae, published in 1597, Francis Bacon was paraphrased as saying “knowledge is power.” Fundamentally, the more you understand about life, the more chance you have at success. But these days, Wikipedia and Google have democratized information to the point where anyone is able to acquire the knowledge they may want.

As a case in point, I had never even heard of Meditationes Sacrae until I looked up the term “knowledge is power” on Wikipedia. In Bacon’s time, the only people that had access to books and the literacy to unlock the wisdom within were the wealthy with the time and inclination to learn.

Of course, books weren’t the only source of knowledge. Consider blacksmiths, dressmakers, cobblers or sailors who passed their skills and techniques from mother to daughter, from father to son. Back then, the friction that held people back from learning was low literacy, a lack of access to books and very little time. Now, that friction is almost non-existent. That is because of both the ability of computers to replicate information for distribution, and the the way that Google, Wikipedia and blogs have empowered people to share what they know. Now, the only real friction that exists is our own desire for knowledge. It’s there for you — if you want it.”

–Mike Laurie How Social Media Has Changed Us

“While online a person’s status in the face-to-face world may not be known to others and it may not have as much impact as it does in the face-to-face world. If people can’t see you or your surroundings, they don’t know if you are the president of a major corporation sitting in your expensive office, or some “ordinary” person lounging around at home in front of the computer. Even if people do know something about your offline status and power, that elevated position may have little bearing on your online presence and influence. In most cases, everyone on the internet has an equal opportunity to voice him or herself. Everyone – regardless of status, wealth, race, gender, etc. – starts off on a level playing field. Although one’s status in the outside world ultimately may have some impact on one’s powers in cyberspace, what mostly determines your influence on others is your skill in communicating (including writing skills), your persistence, the quality of your ideas, and your technical know-how.

People are reluctant to say what they really think as they stand before an authority figure. A fear of disapproval and punishment from on high dampens the spirit. But online, in what feels like a peer relationship – with the appearances of “authority” minimized – people are much more willing to speak out or misbehave.

According to traditional Internet philosophy, everyone is an equal: Peers share ideas and resources. In fact, the net itself is engineered with no centralized control. As it grows, with a seemingly endless potential for creating new environments, many people see themselves as independent-minded explorers. This atmosphere and philosophy contribute to the minimizing of authority.”

–John Suler The Online Disinhibition Effect

“For example, to explain the greater hostility that is exhibited online, psychologists point out that our mirror neurons aren’t triggered in these less-personal online interactions. This means that because we don’t see the faces of the people we are dealing with, we don’t feel the empathy that we potentially would if we were right in front of them. As a result, people feel emboldened to be more aggressive or even hurtful in their communications. In addition, subtle nuances that people pick up when they are talking to someone through hand gestures or voice inflections are lost online; words are monotone, leaving interpretation up to the reader. This is why it is good practice to always ask yourself, “is this something I would say if I were looking that person in the eye? Would it be OK if it were attributed to me in perpetuity?”

–Sarah Sorensen The Sustainable Network

“Anonymity on the Internet allows gender swapping online without prejudice or judgment. It provides a platform where individuals can express themselves freely without fear of being judged because their behaviour may not be considered appropriate amongst their circle of family and friends. It allows the individual freedom to explore their inner fantasies and curiosities. Bargh, McKenna, Fitzsimons (2002, p.35) state “the anonymity of the Internet enables people the opportunity to take on various personas, even a different gender, and to express facets of themselves without fear of disapproval and sanctions by those in their real-life social circle.” There are a number of reasons that prevent humans from dealing with certain personal issues such as the curiosity of gender swapping in reality, therefore often resort to the Internet due to its anonymity to express themselves and work through these issues. Some reasons can be fear of being judged, embarrassment and religious beliefs. The anonymity the Internet provides, allows users a complete sense of escapism from reality. Joinson & Dietz Uhler (2002. p280) identify “the use of online persona can serve a useful purpose for expressing and understanding our core selves unfettered by shyness, social anxiety, and physical states.”

–Kathleen Vella The Benefits of Gender Swapping Online

“Mr Alt – “So Dr Jekyll you’re saying that the forums suggest that we act differently ‘online’ and that in some way we exhibit a alter ego? I’m not so sure this is actually the case. My guess is (and it is a guess) is that our alter egos, the ones we wear to work and in polite society are the false images and that people are actually quite childish, selfish and prone to temper tantrums. Scary huh? I shouldn’t think anyone should be surprised by this – after all we were all children at one stage and the social baggage that follows in our subsequent years is just that: baggage”.”

–CrazyKinux The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Alt

As always, comments and ideas are welcomed…..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s