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Google doesn’t make us stupid. Stupid makes us stupid

Submitted by on Friday, 19 February 2010 One Comment
If computer manufacturers wanted to do the world a big favor they'd include, not a shortcut to software,but a direct link to snopes.com on every box sold.

It wouldn't end all the "Starbucks is anti-military" emails I receive or eliminate the "Automation Labs is stealing your soul" Facebook status updates.

It wouldn't stop bloggers from confusing U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison with Barack Obama and claiming that the current president used a Koran when he was sworn into Congress - not that there's anything wrong with that unless you're a race baiter who sees Islamofacism creeping around every corner.

But maybe, just maybe it would encourage a few more people to pause before they hit "forward" or reflect before they copy and paste. And if even one person takes the time to analyze, investigate and - dare I say - think before passing along rumor, the extra desktop clutter would be worth it.

Google doesn't make us stupid. Acting stupidly makes us appear stupid. It's encourage to see that, based on research the Pew Internet and American Life Project released today, experts have figured that out.

The question of whether online access is dumbing us down was raised in an essay last summer by  writer Nicholas Carr, who argued that easy searches and the distraction of Web browsing was making it harder for him to concentrate.

Yes, it is harder to stay on task when you're online, simply because the near-endless possibilities can lead you far afield of where you started. Sometimes that's a good thing.

Yes, reading online is different from reading in print. I, for example, tend to skim, assess, move on and come back later when I need to - Carr thinks that's bad because it doesn't allow readers time to process deeply.

I'm too old to be a Digital Native, but I was an early Digital Settler. Years spent quickly assessing rapid-fire news feeds at work helped me adapt quickly. And I'll admit that in some ways online has made me lazy - I search for correct spellings instead of reaching for a dictionary.

Rather than making me stupid, though, it's made me much better informed.  A gazillion pixels of information fly past me a day - no, I don't read them all but I get enough of the gist to be able to find the pertinent information again when I need to. It takes effort to separate fact from opinion from rumor, but that's where analytical and critical-thinking skills come into play.

This might be a shock to us oldsters, but recent research I've read in "Born Digital" and "Grown Up Digital" indicate that today's kids are far better at this than my generation, probably because those who have grown up with computers have learned to be more skeptical of sources and wild claims.

Yes, technology has meant that people are processing information differently. But different isn't the same as inferior. Most of the time, it's merely different.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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One Comment »

  • Leslie K said:

    Wanted you to know – I received a phone call from the nephew in Basic. he is LOVING it and very happy he joined. He turns 21 in two weeks – the first birthday away from home. I don’t know about him but I am crying inside.

    Also, I have to retire from The Hive. Our friend has lost his mind and began posting my full name and then making up stuff about me (I am a sex addict, addicted to pills, have been banned from 12 step programs in the Modesto area, really REALLY bizarro stuff). In the interest of keeping people safe from his craziness, I am backing off for awhile to see if that helps things calm down…the big test is the weekends. He gets really crazy active on the weekends because he knows Dan Day is not monitoring the postings.

    DON’T YOU MISS US????????