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A storehouse of knowledge and useful information – an immensely valuable tool, which is the Internet – allows all people to almost instantly access any information that interests them. Every day, users come there to chat with friends on social networks, play games, read something, or watch, and therefore, for many people, almost all their lives go online. With the help of the World Wide Web, people can share their experiences with other users and accumulate knowledge. Discussions about whether digital technologies make people stupid began with their global spread. Scientists around the world are researching whether the dominance of the Internet and other scientific advances contribute to brain degradation. However, the leading causes most likely to lie in fact, any tool that brings comfort eliminates the extra and healthy stress, which is needed for bodies and minds to grow.
Problem of Intelligence
The constant use of the Internet necessarily leads to changes in the functioning of the human brain. Surfing the Internet makes intellectual activity superficial, and thus, the skill necessary for a modern person to quickly and regularly browse sites leads to the fact that the human brain gradually loses its ability to deep and systemic thinking. This conclusion was made by Nicholas Carr, a leading American expert in the field of cyber information (Carr, 2016). Carr led a group of research psychologists, and two years ago, he became known all over the world after the publication of the article, “Does Google make us stupid?”. He stated that: “Once you create an engine – a machine – to produce serendipity, you destroy the essence of serendipity.” (Carr, 2016). The largest technology companies around the world do not underestimate the problem of the relationship between the creative abilities of man and the Internet. The American aircraft manufacturer Boeing created a special expert group that works with young engineers (Montag & Reuter, 2017). Its goal is to maintain the intellectual form of specialists. The group teaches a balanced approach to find information on the Internet and in the scientific literature.
The latest studies of neurosurgeons show that when working on the Internet, two areas of the brain develop very quickly: the center responsible for making quick decisions, and the part responsible for short-term memory. However, the deep zones of the brain, in which there is a detailed analysis of fundamental problems related to all aspects of human activity and life, do not receive the necessary impulses (Seok, Lee, Sohn, & Sohn, 2015). As a result, the intensity of their work is reduced, and the “obsession” of people with Internet surfing leads to impulsiveness and a loss of ability to leisurely and in-depth intellectual activity.
Moreover, people who are always online are complaining of fatigue, irritability, and difficulty in perceiving. Young people who are accustomed to correspondence with short messages, to watch short videos and concise texts are no longer so easily forced to read a whole book. People stop worrying about remembering information because they can always use the Internet. Jumping from one resource to another, a constant distraction to e-mails, notifications about messages lead to “computer fatigue,” when it becomes more difficult for users to focus on one thing and think slowly and in-depth (Montag & Reuter, 2017). This is especially important for small users who grow up with laptops in their hands instead of toys.
However, in reality, the causes are not so simple. Still, the Internet is stimulated by the brain centers responsible for making quick decisions, hand-eye coordination, and the level of visual literacy. As a result of this, people develop critical thinking skills, improve the ability to form their opinions, and the ability to filter out the necessary information. Research confirms that using the Internet as “external brains,” where facts are stored, frees up space for other mental processes. To acquire knowledge from a wide variety of sources, question it, analyze and evaluate it, question the sources themselves, but the individual details of the mosaic into a meaningful whole – all this must be done independently. Without this, it is impossible to master knowledge and skills, and therefore, it is not a question of memorizing any information (Ainin, Jaafar, Ashraf, & Parveen, 2017). No one will become a climber by remembering the names of mountains or road signs on routes. The climber has this knowledge, but it is obvious that this is far from all the skills he needs.
Nevertheless, impaired mental processes and memory impairment are not the only negative effects of the Internet on humans. Plunging headlong into the network of the World Wide Web, a person gradually loses the skills of real communication, which leads to some of the absence of social integration. The main reason is that: “Why meet friends, when you can chat with them on Skype, why make arrangements with someone live or call up, if you can just send an e-mail, why search and buy goods in ordinary stores, when you can buy anything, don’t leaving the house” (Montag & Reuter, 2017). That is, previously described as advantages, all these amenities with prolonged and non-alternative use turn into a problem. Thus, difficulties in communicating with new people begin to appear, and getting into an unfamiliar company for an Internet-dependent person completely becomes a stressful situation.
Furthermore, a person closes in himself or herself, which affects his or her work or study, and he or she has problems with sleep and eating. Some unhealthy attachment to information technology even leads to suicide (Carr, 2016). In addition to mental and mental disorders, Internet addiction is dangerous, and the occurrence of physical diseases. Spending a monstrous amount of time at the monitor screens, people may damage their vision, and many might acquire tunnel syndrome (Montag & Reuter, 2017). Internet addiction, which is accompanied by a sedentary lifestyle, can lead to various diseases of the spine and joints, cardiovascular pathologies, and many other conditions.
In conclusion, such a process cannot be unambiguously called “stupidity” – it is not so much a decrease in quality as a change in the type of thinking. People’s brain is adapting to the digital environment, the way of thinking is changing, but there is nothing tragic about it. Likewise, almost two and a half thousand years ago, the great philosopher Socrates criticized the appearance of writing, saying that it weakens memory and mind, because people do not need to remember knowledge, but they need to remember where it is written in order to be able to access it. Evidently, the quality and reliability of the information on the network can vary greatly. Different people are looking for different information, the one that corresponds to their intellectual development. Therefore, Internet surfing gives a mixed effect, which in other words means that it is able to make smart people even smarter, and low IQ people even less intelligent. Nonetheless, in general, the Internet is neutral in relation to people’s brains and its work.
Ainin, S., Jaafar, N. I., Ashraf, M., & Parveen, F. (2017). Exploring the role of demographics and psychological variables in internet addiction. Social Science Computer Review, 35(6), 770-780.
Carr, N. (2016). Utopia is creepy: And other provocations. London, UK: W. W. Norton & Company.
Montag, C., & Reuter, M. (2017). Internet addiction: Neuroscientific approaches and therapeutical implications including smartphone addiction. New York, NY: Springer.
Seok, J. W., Lee, K. H., Sohn, S., & Sohn, J. H. (2015). Neural substrates of risky decision making in individuals with Internet addiction. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 49(10), 923-932.