The Need to Be Plugged In

I allow my fingers to maneuver across the keyboard in almost record speed. It suddenly dawned on me that I did not know the exact age of Robert Downey Jr. and the desire to disclose this information was a matter of urgency; ten dollars were on the line that he was not over the age of fifty and I was not about to miss my opportunity to take my misinformed friend’s cash. I slightly tapped the enter key and my question was answered within nanoseconds–  just like that, I was plugged into the vast and ceaseless world of the Internet.

It had never really registered with me how constant my Internet usage was and how it became increasingly difficult to shut out the world when burning questions like ‘how old is x celebrity’ took over the entirety of my thoughts. The persistent need to be ‘plugged in’, whether that be looking up answers to trivial questions, reading up on current events in the New York Times, and/or continually checking Facebook every hour to see what my acquaintances were up to had been a part of the majority of my day. Without using the Internet, it feels as though the world is no longer turning.

Nicholas Carr’s understanding of this phenomena ignited a realization within me. “To read a book was to practice an unnatural process of thought, one that demanded sustained, unbroken attention…It requires readers to place themselves at…’the still point of the turning world’. They had to train their brains to ignore everything else going on around them” (64). It is incredibly difficult to veil the relentless world in which we live in, especially when we have the greatest distraction of all, the Internet. Reading has, indeed,  become a daunting task. Recalling the past, especially during my childhood,  I never had such a problem sitting down and enjoying a good book– reading for hours on end, sometimes even finishing the piece of literature. Now, I cannot sit to read one chapter without taking a “break” and checking my phone to reconnect myself back into reality. I couldn’t fathom the idea that my attention span was that of a squirrel, the realization that I could no longer simply immerse myself in a book was heartbreaking. Of course, I can most certainly try to alter my way of thinking, as Carr believes, we are altering our way of thinking every day, but it not exactly a simple task. I am by no means trying to portray the Internet in a negative light, it is this remarkable treasure that allows us to gain so much knowledge about the world, but also serves as a distractionary tool.

Carr really brings to this situation that most of us suffer from to the forefront. Comparing our predicament to those who struggled with reading during the Middle Ages, except, their issue was that of literary comprehension and taking the time to form their minds into literary ones. We already possess that ability, it’s the notion or question rather, are we able to leave the ever turning, ceaseless world for a moment? Are ten dollars really worth my inability to focus?

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Author: Ashley M

I major in both Neuroscience and Cognitive Science at the University of Delaware. My goal for this blog is to provide thought-provoking responses to our use of technology, how it has changed, and how we use it today in order to have a better understanding of the ever-changing digital world.

5 thoughts on “The Need to Be Plugged In”

  1. Ashley, I love your writing here! Your opening anecdote is particularly effective, “in the moment”. Which makes me think—maybe the answer to the sense of distractedness that Carr talks about involves writing as much or more than reading? ~Joe

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  2. I love this, worded perfectly. I constantly feel like my mind and fingers are literally plugged into the net, as if checking my phone has become a tick more than anything else. I think our lack of focus when reading physical books says a lot about our will as people to not let technology affect us, it is naturally weak.

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    1. Thank you so much! Using the Internet, whether that be phone or computer definitely has become more of a “bad habit” as opposed to a way to pass the time. I’m so glad you agree and can relate!

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  3. I think the internet does have a lot of good, but it is equally as bad. It is nice to be able to look something up in seconds, but I think it can defect the purpose of strengthening our ability to really learn something.

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  4. I genuinely love what you have to say here and find it to be completely relatable! I think your first couple of sentences do a great job of summarizing the majority of our generation and how much has changed over time. I definitely have a tendency to get distracted while reading a book nowadays due to the amount of distractions that surround us.

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