The Remapping of Our Brains

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Reading has been a passion of mine since I was a child. I remember how easy it used to be for me to pick up a book, any book, and quickly get immersed in it. I remember how easy it was to dissect the author’s prose and diction, even when the content did not interest me. Nowadays, I cannot easily do those things. I find myself becoming distracted, bored, and unsatisfied before I even comprehend the words I am reading. And it is beginning to carry over into other aspects of my life as well. I feel that as I adapt and grow with the times (the need for instantaneous responses, the extreme technological growth) there are parts of me that are being left in the past. My focus may be one of them. While reading The Shallows, I came across a passage by Carr that embodies what I am experiencing. I struggle to formulate my thoughts on this matter into simple terms, but I think that Carr perfectly describes it. I attached a picture of the excerpt above.

A specific word Carr uses to describe this sensation is, “uncomfortable”. This particular choice of a word really resonates with me because I think it is the perfect way to capture this feeling. While I am aware that my mind and the way it works are changing, I am not sure whether positive or negative changes are occurring. Or maybe both are? As Carr goes on to mention, there are benefits and consequences of the ways our brains are continuing to develop with the advancement of technology. Positively, we have more freedom with our careers (like Carr’s ability freelance and create a blog), easier access to information, more time efficient ways to work, etc. Negatively, we are losing our soft skills. It is becoming harder and harder for people to write with pen and paper, to talk to each other face to face, or even on a phone call, and to sit down and read a book or an article. The word “uncomfortable” really strikes me because I am happy to acquire these new skills, but scared to lose my old ones; however, I am not sure where the balance between these two things lies, and that makes me uncomfortable.

I think that so far in the chapters we have read, Carr has done an excellent job of mapping out this transition within our brains and the effects it causes. He balances the pros and cons of the situation in a thoughtful manner, and encourages the reader to challenge and think about these ideas. He also explains how changes in the brain have been occurring like this since the beginning of time. Does that mean we should accept this change and not be bothered by this natural process, or are we evolving too fast for our own good? This is a question I don’t have an answer to, but it is something that raised a flag in my mind while reading The Shallows. Additionally, I wonder if the skills we lose are worth losing when we are able to gain achievements like this. As I read through the progression of technology that Carr laid out for us in these first few chapters, I always think the next invention is better than the one before it. However, I am curious if I will feel the same way in the future when I look back on the past. Maybe these worries that Carr and I feel about the remapping of our brains are only minor bumps in the road to technology that will cause our brains to think in ways that we never have before.

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Author: Molly O'Neill

I am an Organizational and Community Leadership major and a Writing minor at the University of Delaware. I am also a dedicated member of the DE Alpha chapter of Pi Beta Phi and the UD Equestrian Team.

5 thoughts on “The Remapping of Our Brains”

  1. The passage from the book that you used above also resonated with me, but for somewhat of a different reason. I am someone who enjoys reading and who has always enjoyed reading. However, I’ve never been a fan of reading something that I don’t care enough about. Moreover, I have to be interested in what it is that I am reading, and I have always operated that way. I feel that my frequent use of the internet has not changed this–I am still reluctant to pick up a copy of “Crime and Punishment”, because I have no desire to read it; and I am still more than willing to pick up a thriller like Dennis Lehane’s “Shutter Island” because it belongs to a genre that I enjoy reading. In conclusion, I feel that I am still the reader I have always been, despite my use of the internet increasing with age.

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  2. Molly,

    First, I love your picto-quote! And I also appreciate your focus on Carr’s use of the term uncomfortable. It reminds me of Freud’s famous observation that the pressures of civilization tend to make us feel “discontented”, ill at ease, uncertain. You and Carr do a nice job of talking about that feeling. ~Joe

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  3. I love your sentence “I am not sure whether positive or negative changes are occurring. Or maybe both are?” because that’s exactly the question I’ve been asking myself. I quite like the ways I’ve become better at certain aspects of life because of how technology has trained me. I might not be reading very many novels, but because of the internet I’m certainly reading and typing more words than I would be otherwise. The internet has made me a better and faster reader than if it didn’t exist and it’s allowed me to get better at communicating in a written form. But the negative aspects you talk about are there as well. It’s certainly a give and take scenario.

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  4. This made me think about how much I used to love to read as a kid too. I like it just as much now, but it IS harder to sit down and read now that I’m older. Now I have my Kindle and I am like you thinking about the potential negative effects of that. What also stood out to me about what you wrote is what you said about the decline of our soft skills. It is so much less common to talk face-to-face & communication is so important for the development of interpersonal skills…I wonder if deficits in that area have to do with lack of face time. Also-can’t believe I didn’t think to just post a picture of my excerpt from the book, good idea.

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  5. Reading all of your comments has slightly eased up that “uncomfortable” feeling because now I know that I am not the only one concerned with this technological change we are experiencing. Your comments provided really interesting perspectives, and I enjoyed reading about your point of views on this topic.

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