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?