Does the Internet make us stupid? Or does it actually make us smarter? Does social media bring people together, or does it destroy our ability to form relationships? Does easy access to information enable us to learn new things, or does it make us lazy and incurious? The answer, as it turns out, is “yes” – to all of the above.
Digital doomsayers have ‘crowed’ about the evils of digital culture since digital culture first began (or before, if you’re a fan of Aldous Huxley.) Equally enterprising are those who believe that the digital revolution can only make our futures’ brighter. Whatever side you happen to be on, there’s good news: you’re right — kind of.
READING: YES, IT’S STILL A FAVORITE PASTIME
Take for example the routine cries of “no one reads anymore!” Steve Jobs said it, and it seems like just about every pundit in print has, too. In a way, they’re right. But they’re also very wrong. Reading is changing, but it’s far from dead.
The way people consume online content is very different than the way they read an article in a newspaper. Online behavior is designed for skimming and quick comprehension; not the in-depth understanding we perform when we read content in print. Unfortunately, many people assume that this behavior carries over to print reading, as well.
It doesn’t. Books haven’t become glorified comic books, and they certainly haven’t died altogether. In fact, we’re buying more books year over year, thanks largely to the popularity of web-enabled e-readers.
SCREEN TIME: THERE ARE BENEFITS TO INFORMATION AGE RESOURCES
The information age is changing the way we learn, as well. Some scientists have noted that too much screen time in early childhood can cause learning deficits and impair cognitive function. And yet, neural activity is much higher among regular Internet users than those who use the net rarely or not at all. One thing is certain – today, we have access to more information than at any other time in our history – and that wealth of information is growing every single day. The myth that technology contributes to antisocial or stupid behavior is just that; a myth. It’s all about how you utilize your time, as with any past time.
Perhaps the biggest digital boogeyman of all is social media. We’re frequently told that it damages relationships — and to an extent, it can. It can spread loneliness like a contagion. It can have a negative impact on friendships and even marriages — some 81 percent of divorce lawyers use information gathered from social media during divorce proceedings. But it can also bring people together in unprecedented ways. It can even change global politics.
Yes, the Information Age has changed and is changing us. How it does so is up to us.
How is it changing you? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.