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Monday, November 15, 2010

The Reluctant Surfer

My computer has come to rule my life and I don't like it. I don't like checking my inbox every five seconds for new email. I don't like wading through hundreds of giveaway posts and sales blurbs in my Google dashboard to find interesting content to read. I don't like jumping from one site to another, hopping through words looking for the morsel I need. I don't like staring at a blank computer screen at 1 in the morning trying to find something worth saying so my blog pops up in your reader so you don't forget about me.

The computer age has had a drastic impact on how most of us spend our spare time. Who can fault the quest for more information, more input, more meat for our little gray cells to chew on? Too bad we're too busy jumping from one link to another to actually do anything of lasting consequence with all that information. The sad truth is that our brains are simply overwhelmed by all that information coming from all different directions at the same time. To make sense of any of it, you have to wear blinders to block out some of the irrelevant stuff.

What if the "irrelevant" stuff you are blocking out is your family? Or even just yourself?

What do we gain by opening 10 different tabs at one time in a browser and clicking between this site and that site, snatching up bits of conversation, chatter, mostly inanities here there and everywhere?

There will always be tidbits worth reading, but I find it interesting that with the apparent ease of finding any information you need, we are spending more and more time searching---where does the search end?

Here's a few tidbits to chew on:
  • You may have heard once upon a time that the human brain can only hold about 7 bits of info in its working memory at any given time...while this may be true, to actually do anything with the info, it would need to be fewer bits than that.
  • That every time you come across a link in something you're reading online, you're brain has to decide whether to follow it---just making this split-second decision is enough to interrupt the average person's train of thought and reduce comprehension.
  • When you switch back and forth between one task and another, your brain has to keep switching info that is in your working memory to your long-term memory and vice versa---you need to reacquaint yourself with what you are doing. So, if you stop to check your email every 5 minutes, you probably won't get very much done.
Want to know more about what the internet is doing to your brain, check out Nicholas Carr's The Shallows from your library...it'll open your eyes.

This is an unsolicited, uncompensated post. I'm reading this book, amid my constant interruptions in life---it's slow going since I can only keep about 3-4 bits of info in my working memory at any given time.

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