Is the Internet Destroying Your Brain? Try This Test
Yesterday, The New York Times published a piece about how the constant distraction of digital media damages "creativity and deep thought, interrupting work and family life." It's not a new worry. A few years ago, Nicholas Carr wrote a story for the Atlantic called "Is Google Making You Stupid?" and his new book, The Shallows, expands on that theme, arguing that the internet is eroding our capacity for "solitary, single-minded concentration."
So is the internet actually bad for our brains? A handful of bloggers have reported feeling that it's been bad for theirs. But why not find out for yourself? The Times has two interesting cognitive games you can play online that will test how easily distracted you are and how good you are at switching between tasks.
I'm someone who spends my entire working day being distracted by online content, and then creating new chunks of online content designed to distract others. My results are below.
I scored well on the first test. I'm hard to distract. In fact, I had a perfect score when faced with the most distractions.
On the second test, it was a mixed bag. I didn't make a single mistake, but I was really slow.
My own subjective feeling is that the internet has shortened my attention span. If I sit down to read a book at night, it sometimes takes an alarmingly long time for my brain to settle into it. And I have to fight the urge to screw around on my phone on the commute home. Jonah Lehrer, contra Carr, argues that the neuroscientific evidence to back this up is thin.
How did you do on those tests? Have your internet habits affected your mind?