Science | The Internet and why we can't read good

It may be the font of all knowledge but the internet’s front men: Twitter, BuzzFeed and Facebook, are destroying the cognitive centres of our brain. The demand to absorb the wealth of updates, retweets and adverts is causing our deep reading centres to become redundant. So I’ll keep it terse.

An avid Podcast listener this problem became apparent on listening to Delete, Flag, Delete, Reply; an episode of Hello Internet, the hour-long musings of two prominent and professional YouTubers, Brady Haran and GCP Grey. Haran boasts of twelve YouTube channels and an excess of 2000 videos, Grey has less than 100, producing just one, five-minute video every five weeks; but both have tens of millions of views. Greys ruthless email routine was under the microscope, his inability to read beyond the first two sentences before he was decided: delete, flag or reply.

He holds the same ethos for the news, objected to reading it, a foreign custom to myself. “The important bits will eventually filter through to me” is his motto. The man takes split second decisions over his correspondents, over a month to write and produce a five-minute video and waits on the trickle of news.

Our inability to concentrate, process and comprehend long text is damaging our mental faculties. Even now my mother is handwriting an essay in it entirety whilst I have walked away, procrastinated and re-edited this multiple times. Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, states our hyperlinking between materials prevents us engaging with the topic. Our brains are being programed to the short bursts of text demanded from social media outlets. Are we becoming more stupid from this practise, yes and no. We are dangerously making more decisions on less information however have increased breaths of knowledge. The internet generation: the jack-of-all-trades, the master of none.

Smalls amount of seminar reading are even becoming too much for us, no longer can we enjoy or engage with our studies but feel the need to pump it through Spritz, and app that fires single words at you at a rate of up to 600 words per minute. My skimming and egoism during novels now leave me flummoxed when my projected conclusion isn’t reached and left thinking “this isn’t right, did I miss a chapter?” Yes, nearly all of them.

We are at 423 worlds and I have probably lost 80 per cent of you, but for those who haven’t hyperlinked elsewhere, back to Mr Grey. Our adaptation to fast paced skimming, deleting and hyperlinking, imposed on younger and younger individuals is affecting our ability complete and concentrate on single tasks, jumping to and throw as engagement dwindles, missing detail, deep thought and ponderance; causing a five minute video to take months. As the onslaught of exams near how long will you resist a Facebook stalk and another @EddyBhotshots retweet, before you actually get the reading done?

Henry Beach

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