In chapters 1-4 of The Shallows, Carr is very accurate in his description of our culture. Computers and the internet have definitely had a large impact on everything we do. They change our daily habits and what we spend our time focused on. Even something as simple as movies has changed drastically. Remember when we had to rewind our VHS tapes before we returned them to the Blockbuster store? It’s crazy to think how much times have changed. I now know no one who owns a VHS player, which have been exchanged for DVD players. A step even further than that is how easy it is to simply watch a movie on the internet, whether that is legally (Netflix, etc) or illegally on a random website.
Carr says, “I used to find it easy to immerse myself in a book or a lengthy article. My mind would get caught up in the twists of the narrative or the turns of the argument… That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration starts to drift after a page or two” (5). This is another thing that easily could be blamed on the internet, etc. While online or attention is drawn all over the place, and things link from one page to another, to pictures and words… there is so much to choose from to focus on. And we rarely focus long. Tweets are contained to 140 characters or less, so we clearly never spend too much time focusing on what one person has to say. On Facebook, we’re drawn from one status, to a profile picture, to wall posts, to new albums, and on and on. The internet is meant for a quick, fast-paced lifestyle, and I think whether someone views that as positive or negative is based on preference. Although there are definitely two sides. I can do so much good through the internet/social media, such as donating money to a great cause by simply retweeting a tweet. But the lack of focus required for the internet may hurt my attention span when I need it to read a book or write a paper.
I definitely see where Carr is coming from with all of this, and I think he is accurate. But I like to look at the technology advancements we’ve made as positive. We may not focus on one thing as long as we used to, but there’s something to be said for the fact that we get so much more information out there. The internet and the advancements we’ve made with it have had so many positive impacts that it’s hard to really see this as a negative. There’s definitely something to be said for taking a break from the constant “connectedness” that we experience through Facebook, Twitter, etc. But as media is something I’m pursuing a career in, I view it and the impacts it can have as much more positive than negative.
On page 97, Carr says, “The predominant sound in the modern library is the tapping of keys, not the turning of pages.” This statement could not be more true. In one sense, this is due to distraction. I find myself at times using my computer for homework when it’s not necessary, simply because I know that if I have my laptop that means I have distractions via Twitter and Facebook right there at my fingertips (although it feels terrible to admit that!). In another sense, this is due to an advancement of technology. We have so many resources available to us through the internet, that I often find myself using scholarly articles I find online, rather than hard copies I find in the library. I have a hard time seeing books completely disappearing, at least any time soon, but we are definitely getting closer to that. This can be seen through online articles like I said I have used for projects, but also through iPads and Kindles.
Later, on page 117, Carr says that the internet is “commanding our attention with much greater intensity than our television or radio or morning newspaper ever did.” I had never really thought of it that way, but that statement is completely true. It seems contradictory, but the internet provides us with distractions, yet commands our attention. Even now as I’m writing this, I have four internet tabs open and college basketball on the tv in the background. I’ve noticed how much the internet commands attention because it’s rare now to even see us focus on a movie. We’re watching, yet checking Facebook and Twitter on our phones, or simultaneously surfing the internet on our laptops. I think it commands our attention over other things because it is constantly changing, but it also commands greater attention because it leads to multi-tasking. We’re all pros at multi-tasking these days, and we have the internet to either thank or blame for that.