Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Just two weeks ago I had to hold a discussion on the impact of Google in front of the class.

Google in this case refers to the internet in general. You see, Google has essentially impacted our lives so much that people start associating it to the world wide web despite it being launched only 4-5 years AFTER Yahoo! – a search engine we thought was such a big deal. Disagree? Now just how many times have you used the term “Google” when you supposedly mean you need to look something up?

When I did my research I stumbled onto Nicholas Carr’s renowned article about Google (titled the same as this post). I can’t help but to agree – Google is indeed making us think less and more dependent on it for information. It’s like, our depth of thinking never expanded since the we started relying on the internet for answers. We assume it knows everything, and sites like Answers.com and Ask___.com aren’t helping either.

I have personally come across students posting their discussion topics/questions (supposedly given by their school teachers) online. By that I mean, seriously the entire question copied and pasted. Only a handful of the respondents realised his laziness and refused to share the answer. But majority of them actually painstakingly did! It was surprising, and that also proves how the internet has slowly led to the reduction of hard work we put in our research.

And another thing that Carr pointed out was our attention span when it comes to reading. I bet many of us experience that as we’d merely skim through long articles. For myself, I wouldn’t go beyond 4 paragraphs if it isn’t about sex, crime or anything else newsworthy. It would be a torment to read ONE page of text. That’s because internet has allowed us to CHOOSE from a wide variety of information. We click on the first few search results on Google and exit the pages less than 5 minutes after we enter them – solely because they don’t have what we wanted. As a result the way we read suffers and you’d probably find yourself losing focus after awhile. If you never realised that, think back about that one time you were studying for a test. Didn’t you get fidgety after reading a few sentences?

Now with Twitter it seems to worsen the matter. Because of its 140-word only policy, we find ourselves accustomed to reading short texts. So when lecturers need you to read 3 pages from a textbook it’d be equivalent to shooting you in the head. At this rate, textbooks would have to be HEAVILY simplified so that they don’t bore students so easily. We want the details to come *snaps* FAST. So.. really, would engaged readers eventually cease to exist?

However to be fair, we also need to look at the other side of the coin. Without the internet, we’d still be living in our own world, not knowing what is happening around us. With Apocalypse (natural disasters, global warming etc) approaching, we need to equip ourselves with knowledge to survive. And the Internet has helped us a lot in this aspect. We also need to constantly adapt to changes. So in other words, the Internet COULD HAVE also made us smarter in another way.

Some argue that ultimately how much we use the Internet is within our control. It’s our responsibility – which I, too, agree.

So what’s your take in this? If I have to make a stand, I’d say yes – Google does make us stupid. But I’m willing to be stupid as long as it keeps me alive.

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