A Belated Response to the Impatient Mind

You will have probably noticed that, while it is still Thursday, that it definitely is not 10:00 AM. Regardless, I remain dedicated to the assignment at hand. And quite frankly, I blame the Internet. And myself. Mainly myself, though.

Nicolas Carr’s The Shallows, as we are all more than well aware (hopefully), tells the not-so-fictional tale of how the new age of the Internet has affected our minds for better or for worse. While I have admittedly not been reading as much as I should be, I can’t help but feel that from what I’ve read that this behavior has become inevitable for me. The internet has become a super-library of information hurled at us in big sweeping waves of key points and rapid-fire access. Information that we would have once had to have scoured through books and other related media can now be accessed in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. Not only that, but the method of information sharing that has become popular on the internet has taken on a much shorter format with essential and pertinent information given to us in the titles and paraphrased in the articles. With such a drastic change of timing, this new method of research definitely has helped millions, if not billions, access more information far more quickly than before. But as Carr emphasizes, it comes with a price.

Even as I was reading The Shallows, I found myself getting exasperated and tired reading through each page, constantly thinking there are much better things I could be doing with my time. Yet at the same time, I became self-aware and almost guilt-ridden as Carr eloquently stated what has happened to our minds and describing almost exactly what I was thinking and feeling. It almost makes the book feel self-aware (even though it’s really just you becoming self-aware and not willing to accept that you’re the one making mistakes) when Carr describes how some would rather take “a minute or two to cherry pick the pertinent passages using Google Book Search” when you simultaneously “[don’t] see any reason to plow through chapters of text” (8). The appeal of audiobooks in recent time has boomed partially in response to our changing psyche. We have reached a point in society where some people can’t be arsed to read anything themselves anymore and would rather pay for someone else to read to them, just so they could still go about doing “the more important”things in life at the same time.

6 thoughts on “A Belated Response to the Impatient Mind”

  1. I hate to admit I felt the same while reading The Shallows. Even as I was enjoying the information and finding it really interesting and relatable, I struggled to turn each page. My brain no longer wants to process large amounts of information in a non-condensed way. Sigh.

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  2. I was the same way. I was dreading it. I would pick my phone up to “take a break” and kept looking at the page number to see how close I was getting to the end. I wish it wasn’t this hard for me. And after reading what Carr said, I blame the internet.

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  3. It’s funny that even with the ubiquitous access we have to the internet, we fall short of our online assignments. I know you feel that feeling, which you so plainly and agreeably wrote in your first paragraph. I think all of us can attest to what you said.

    And much like yourself, with each turn of the page in this book, I find my mind wandering down unforeseen paths, aimlessly latching onto transient thoughts, thoughts that have little bearing on the content of this book. Your introspection encompasses the feeling of many. So how can we fight back against out trampoline mind? Have we hardwired our brains past the tipping point, to the point where these neural underpinnings we’ve created are deeply ingrained? I would argue not, and I think that reading this book gives us a perfect deliverance of self-reflection and fear, as well as the means to have faith in the ability of our minds to reconstruct itself.

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  4. I like that you described the internet as a super-library that hurls information at us. I have never thought about it this way, but since you made this point I definitely envision the internet doing this especially since anytime a person is to search for something, thousands of results appear instantly, in an almost overwhelming manner. The internet is of course a useful tool, but it does take out the component of carefully reading through books to find what is necessary.

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  5. Peter, “Exasperated”, “tired”, “guilt-ridden”—not much of an advertisement for The Shallows, or for the act of reading itself! Which leads me to ask: What vocabulary would you use to describe the activity of reading online? Is it that different from reading a book? ~Joe

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