Friday, 13 August 2010

Skittery Minds: Plague of the Internet Age, or Simply Tryng to Avoid Work?

I've always been a lateral thinker, which has its advantages. It's a very good way to ferret out connections and uncover patterns when you're considering a problem. It's also a way of thinking completely compatible with using the Internet.

This quick jumping from idea to idea is coming under increasing criticism these days, though. FaceBook and Twitter only exacerbate the temptation never to linger so you can think something through, read to the end of a paragraph, an article or, heaven forfend, a book. Decrying this tendency is even becoming a small cottage industry, as in Nicolas Carr's The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.

And as I switch gears and look for new projects--two that I've been working on for some time are reaching fruition--I find my mind skittering off frequently when I sit down to read something. Even with a book in my hands, I often can't avoid looking up a reference on the Net, or trying to follow up a thought which my reading has prompted.

Does this mean I've become deformed by the ease with which I can find out just when Le Corbusier died or who is mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, these days? No, I don't think so. I'm just doing what I've always done when I've been not sure of what direction I should go, or, more frequently, when I'm stuck and I don't want to work.

What is necessary is to sit there and keep at it, not to give up, and, certainly, not to blame the equipment.


Martin Langeland said...

And think what a boon it is to find the odd fact so quickly rather than breaking off to inquire at a distant library or some remote grove of academe. One scarcely breaks the stride of concentration until another excuse emerges from one's murky brain.

Mary Soderstrom said...

Indeed. One of the pleasures of the whole business!


Jack Ruttan said...

But does it spoil the idea of learning all that strange stuff? Sort of what like the calculator did to learning the multiplication tables. Do kids these days even know the multiplication tables?