Ancient's Reviews > The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

The Shallows by Nicholas Carr
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Nov 14, 10

bookshelves: essays, pop-non-fiction

I was introduced to the internets for the first time ever when I was 18 and entered college. Up until that time I had been an avid reader, and I could easily get lost in a book for several hours at a time. It's been over ten years now since that first introduction. My internet usage is heavier now than it was back then, and I find it much harder to concentrate on solid paragraphs of the written word the way I used to, especially when it comes to fiction.

Regardless of any particulars people might take issue with in Carr's book, I think there is something to the larger point he's trying to make. It is very possible that technology like the internets is going to undermine the written word as we have known it for the last 500 or so years since Gutenberg. I don't think that's an exaggeration, mainly because I myself am experiencing the effects first hand.

It's the brave new, cyberpunk world. Internets type tech is not slowing down in it's spread to engulf the entirety of our lives. It used to be that computers, phones, TV, etc. were confined to the rooms where the bulky equipment necessary could be housed. Now with digital tech everything is portable, therefore these devices and their influence are everywhere all the time.

If Carr is right when he talks about the written word's role in having created a culture of depth over the last several hundred years, I think he also might be right about the internets destroying that culture of depth and replacing it with a culture of superficial data collection, a culture where bulk quantity of info takes precedence over quality and meaningfulness of thought.

Those of us alive at present may yet live to see the day when book reading becomes a forgotten pastime enjoyed by a small group of aficionados the way classical music enjoyment has shrunk down to a niche community fanbase. Yes, people have been saying this for years, but the internets might be the thing that finally does the job. When libraries, the old vanguard of book culture, are getting rid of their books in favor of putting in even more computer terminals (such as is the case at my local library), and even die-hard readers like me sometimes feel too brain-scrambled to stick it out with the written word, what does that tell you?

Let's hope I'm wrong and this is not the beginning of the end of the written word...
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