The Internet Changes You

I was moving furniture with my older brother a few days before the start of the spring semester and while we were waiting at a traffic light he punched me on the shoulder from the driver’s seat and said, “There’s this picture of this little dog with its hands raised up in the air like it’s celebrating and it says: ‘When your bank account is more than zero!’ Haha! It’s the funniest little thing.”

I didn’t laugh and he got upset to a degree that I thought was unwarranted. After a minute he got serious and said, “Someone showed me that picture while we were chopping wood and me and the guys cracked up and kept talking about it for the rest of the day. That got us through the day. You people (by which he meant, ‘people who don’t cut themselves off from the internet because they fear the government is trying to control them’) are so inundated with jokes and funny pictures that nothing makes you laugh anymore.”

The question of whether the internet had changed my sense of humor was on my mind before I picked up Carr’s book. My initial reaction to my brother was “No, that’s just a bad joke,” but after reading Carr’s explanations of neuroplasticity, particularly, his quote about the internet taking away his ability to concentrate on longer works, I realized that I might have been affected more by my internet usage than I once thought. “And what the net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration” (pg. 6). Yeah, that’s me. Being connected to the internet means news can break instantaneously, and any time I open Twitter I could be greeted with a world changing update. How can I pay attention to a long boring article when the world is literally at my fingertips?

Access to so much information and so many connections has impacted the way I see and interact with the real world. The most interesting thing I’ll ever read, the funniest joke I’ll ever be told, and the coolest people I’ll ever interact with will almost certainly be done online. The world becomes boring when you realize that you’ll never meet your favorite celebrity, but you can have a back and forth conversation on twitter. What Carr meant when he wrote about his concentration being chipped away was that he was used to getting news in bite (or byte) sized chunks and thus long form articles were unengaging. But I think it goes further. Social media stimulates our brain because every moment we’re being engaged. When you’re away from that you’ll find that you’ve become addicted, and it’s that addiction that makes it hard to do anything else. When my brother and the 40 year old lumberjacks he work with see a picture of a cute animal or read a funny caption, for them it’s the funniest thing they’ve seen in awhile. For me it’s not even in the top ten things I’ve seen that morning. This has to be affecting who I am as a person in ways that are potentially frightening.

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Author: Devon I

UD student, Junior English major.

5 thoughts on “The Internet Changes You”

  1. Your response really struck a cord with me because it is something I have never thought about before, but it something I am being affected by. You are definitely right that the way that social media and the accessibility of things is changing our humor is actually a bit frightening. Having someone to share a joke with is half of the fun, but when the other person is uninterested because they’ve seen or heard it days ago, it takes the fun out of things. This causes us to use technological ways of sharing our jokes and sense of humor rather than face to face communication because it gets there faster.

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    1. As someone who is definitely one of those people that points out silly things or funny pictures on the internet, I can relate to your brother. However, I have never given any thought to the idea that the internet might be changing our sense of humor. I think this is an intriguing notion and would likely have to agree with it. For example, I used to get most of my comedy from television and movies. Now, aside from those media, I laugh at funny videos and photos on the web and chuckle at internet memes. I think that if the internet can change how we think, it can definitely change our sense of humor as well.

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  2. Devon,

    Like Molly, I’m struck by how, for your brother and his friends, the joke is an experience that they share in real time with each other. It is a true social activity in ways that our interactions on social media only approximate. But I guess I’m also a little wary of your brother’s—and maybe Carr’s—sense that the only response is to unplug. Luddism rarely works, it seems to me. ~Joe

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  3. I don’t think you’re doing too bad-I didn’t think it was THAT funny. It might just be that your brother and his friends are older and their sense of humor is different than yours. Also I find that when people are not engaged in social media, they are not exposed to the ridiculous hilarity that the Internet has to offer. We are all the time so people our age probably wouldn’t think the little dog was that funny either. We are a little desensitized when it comes to jokes. I agree with you that the Internet is addicting; the scholarly research backing that up is crazy.

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  4. “Having someone to share a joke with is half of the fun” is a great observation. Before the internet jokes could only really be shared in a limited number of ways (person to person, TV, books) now that they’re everywhere and everyone is online, the chances of hearing a good joke in person is very small.
    “it can definitely change our sense of humor as well.” I’ve personally found that my sense of humor has changed so that the only things I really find funny anymore are things that subvert my expectations. The internet and its many cat videos seem to have filled my quota of laughing at random and weird things, or people falling over, to last a lifetime.
    “they are not exposed to the ridiculous hilarity that the Internet has to offer.” is also a very true statement. I’ve tried showing my brother and mother popular memes before and the general response is them looking in confusion and not laughing at what I consider to be the funniest jokes. The internet has become a culture and the language of memes is something that someone with no experience might have no idea how to relate to.

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