Dumb and Dumberer?

Lately, I’ve come to the sad and startling conclusion that reading a book has become difficult for me. I find myself getting confused if there are too many characters…or too many plot lines…or too many anythings. I’m constantly flipping back to previously read pages: Who the heck is so and so? What happened at such and such? The problem is compounded by the fact that I tend to read in bed, which means I’m only digesting a few pages a night. By the next night, when I turn to my bookmarked page, I read the first few lines and struggle to recall where the story left off.

I’ve always been an avid reader, so this new phenomenon has been distressing. I had just decided to chalk it up to an aging thing—my brain is way too full after all these years to absorb any information that is not absolutely essential—when I read an article entitled “Is Google Making Us Stoopid?” in the July/August issue of The Atlantic.

The basic premise of the article is that those of us who frequently use the Internet have experienced a shift in the way we think. We are power browsing, not deep reading. We jump from one tidbit of information to another, and instead of ingesting data, we become “mere decoders of information” (according to Maryanne Wolf, a develomental pychologist at Tufts University). We allow our attention to be scattered and our concentration diffused, and the result is that we compromise our ability to focus and comprehend. We avoid reading anything that we consider “too long,” because the Internet has conditioned us to seek, instead, quick bites of information on demand.

There’s a lot more to the article, but…um…I didn’t read the rest because it was too long.