THE INTERNET IS RUINING MY BRAINS

2016 August 19
by J Storlie

Okay, not really. At least, I don’t think so. But sometimes, I wonder.

When I was a kid, I spent every spare second at the library. If I wanted information? The library. If I wanted entertainment? The library. If I wanted quiet, away from all of the chaos and noise of school and teachers and parents and peers who didn’t understand me? THE LIBRARY HALLELUJAH. Well, sometimes, the pet store. But mostly, the library.

I mean… what is the life cycle of an eyebrow hair? What kind of apple did Eve eat? What is the pigeon population of New York compared with sparrow population? When I was a kid, there was one way to get this information, and thanks be for those long-suffering, quietly shushing, ever-so-patient librarians who were always there to help me find what I needed.

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(You can find more gems like these on the New York Public Library’s Instagram feed.)

Anyway, these days, I don’t go to the library. I still use the library. I check books out online, and read them on my devices, and listen to audio books on my phone in the car. I love the library. I just never actually step foot in it. If I want information, I don’t need to leave the house. I don’t have to ask a teacher, or call someone I might know who has expertise in that arena. I just have to say, “Okay, Google…” and tah-dah! Information! All kinds of it! More information than you can shake a stick at!

(Okay, I don’t actually say, “Okay, Google…” I just type in my search, because talking to my phone makes me feel like a dork.)

But what of information integrity? What about honest reporting, and freedom of the press? There was a reason for the First Amendment. We, The People determined that we have a right to the free access of information. But, I mean… what good is all of that information, when we are so flooded with sources that it’s nearly impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff?

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“Young people, who are the majority of our audience, are angry, disenfranchised and they don’t like or trust mainstream media outlets. They’re leaving TV in droves, but music and news are the two things that Generation Y in every country are excited about and interested in.”

So, what can we do? How do we navigate the big wide world of information without total overload? How do we encourage critical thinking in our culture?

“Before the internet there were two important things to teach: content and skills, like writing,” November said. “Now there’s a third skill which is to build out your network to the world.”

Learning is a lifetime endeavor. Critical thinking is essential to the progression of our species. Technology offers us the ability to access huge amounts of information, and that is amazing!

Now, we just have to learn how to wield this amazing power for good. We can evaluate the information we’re offered, share it and invite commentary, and debate with reason and an open mind. We can plan events, attend gatherings, build networks with people who share valuable, accurate information, and use our new tools to connect and inspire. The Internet doesn’t have to ruin your brain, and social media doesn’t have to ruin your social life. Use it! Get involved! Pay attention!

Oh, and call your grandma. We know you hate talking on the phone, but she forgot her Facebook password again, and she never remembers to check her email.

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