I know the internet affects the way my mind works. I guess I tend to think that it's more the pyroluria-affected ADHD-type symptoms that drive my erratic, distracted way of working where, like today, I am flittering backwards and forwards between different subjects, working on 10 things at once.
But then I've just been reminded how the internet makes it so much worse for me. And maybe it's affecting my focus just as much or maybe even more than the physical issues I have. I just before read a quote in this article from Nicholas Carr's The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember. The linear Western mind of the past 500 years is moving to make way for something else that likes its information “in short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts – the faster, the better”.
That must be why I have, as we speak, 25 different tabs open on my browser. Twenty-five. That's ridiculous. One is for an ad on Gumtree that I've had pinned but then forgotten about from sometime last week, that is so old that there's a 404 error on it when I click on it and it says, "Sorry, that page no longer exists." There's a YouTube clip for chemtrails and an interview podcast with two writers I've been meaning to watch for about a week as well. There's the Telegraph UK article I linked to above that was talking about online distractions, which was part of some research I was doing for a Weekend Notes article I wrote last week about curbing your online distractions (you will understand now why I needed to write that article :) There are eight open pages about WordPress and/or clip arts for logos I'm designing for a blog I'm slowly beginning to put together for my partner. There are two pages relating to a website I'm interested in writing for in the future. There are six pages relating to articles I'm in the process of writing for Weekend Notes. There is a page from Sarah's Early Women Masters' site I'm reading about Emily Dickinson. There is a site about proofreading services that I'm reading for research for future work prospects. There's an article from The Daily Good. And finally there's a pizza menu for tonight's dinner. There's this blog post I'm writing right now, which I started after reading bits and pieces of those articles I'm meant to be in the middle of writing for Weekend Notes.
Wow. That's all very productive, isn't it! It makes me sound like a powerhouse of working energy. And I guess today I am. But it's also just bloody ridiculous, and seriously, I am now just a tad exhausted after writing that above paragraph. It's a cerrrazy way to work. But it's how I work these days, now that computers and browsers have changed so that you can hibernate the 'puter without turning it off and shutting all your programs down. Now, we our internet surfing experience is an ongoing one, unlike the days when everything needed to be closed and turned off.
Part of me enjoys working this way. It sure keeps things interesting. But that's a bit disturbing when I think of how the internet is shaping my mind. And the silly part about it is that I often have this yearning to get all of those tabs closed so that I can have that lovely, fresh the feeling of only having one tab open at a time. But who works like that these days? Not very many people, surely.
Nicholas Carr's observation that the internet is producing people with a broad knowledge that is incredibly shallow is disturbing, wouldn't you say?. I find it so. Especially as a writer, desiring to write stuff that is compelling and keeps people interested. But how do you do that? I mean, using myself as a guinea pig, I don't treat other people's words with the same respect. I flit back to them, reading in chunks.
I think though that part of what fuels this ridiculous incidence of having 25 tabs open at once is something that is the opposite to what Carr is saying. My desire is to understand to the nth degree the very bottom of every subject I study, and sometimes that makes me flick away from one subject to have a breather. It's just that then I have a breather in another subject. And even writing that I know it's a little weird and silly because doing that fuels the very issue I have in the first place, that of focus and attention. And so the snake comes round and bites its own tail.
What a complex and changing world, eh? But I tend to think that the web is not all doom and gloom in terms of changing the way we think. I think that one thing the net is doing is that it is making us realise how connected the world is. (And like my partner just said, paradoxically it's happening via the very technology that is disconnecting everybody from each while they sit in the same room, hooked into their devices). Still, despite that paradox, I think maybe it is helping in the ongoing process that is the Western mind learning to reconnect to knowledge that the indigenous mind possess automatically, being hooked into the world and each other. That connection is what humans need - a worldview of Oneness that maybe we will be able to find our way back to, where we will learn to look after the earth once more.
I hope so, anyway :)