The Shallows

Nicholas Carr ★★★★★

aka “What the Internet Is Doing to our Brains”

Since you are an Internet addict (it’s not even a question), this book may help you.

Very spot on and well written, with lots of background information to support the writer’s claims. Even if you have no problems arising from using the Internet (you do), it’s a good read with topics ranging from neurobiology, sociology and media science to psychology.


We become, neurologically, what we think.

The paradox of neuroplasticity, observes Doidge, is that, for all the mental flexibility it grants us, it can end up locking us into “rigid behaviors.” The chemically triggered synapses that link our neurons program us, in effect, to want to keep exercising the circuits they’ve formed. Once we’ve wired new circuitry in our brain, Doidge writes, “we long to keep it activated.

French scientist Léon Dumont had drawn, in an earlier essay about the biological consequences of habit, between the actions of water on land and the effects of experience on the brain: “Flowing water hollows out a channel for itself which grows broader and deeper; and when it later flows again, it follows the path traced by itself before.

The more a sufferer concentrates on his symptoms, the deeper those symptoms are etched into his neural circuits. […] In the worst cases, the mind essentially trains itself to be sick.

as people became more dependent on maps, rather than their own memories, in navigating their surroundings, they almost certainly experienced both anatomical and functional changes in the hippocampus and other brain areas involved in spatial modeling and memory.

We don’t see the forest when we search the Web. We don’t even see the trees. We see twigs and leaves.

“Why in the world would you want to be interrupted—and distracted—by e-mail while programming?”

[…] when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. It’s possible to think deeply while surfing the Net, just as it’s possible to think shallowly while reading a book, but that’s not the type of thinking the technology encourages and rewards.

The Net’s interactivity gives us powerful new tools for finding information, expressing ourselves, and conversing with others. It also turns us into lab rats constantly pressing levers to get tiny pellets of social or intellectual nourishment.

Try reading a book while doing a crossword puzzle; that’s the intellectual environment of the Internet.

A 1989 study showed that readers of hypertext often ended up clicking distractedly “through pages instead of reading them carefully.” A 1990 experiment revealed that hypertext readers often “could not remember what they had and had not read.”

The multimedia technologies so common to the Web, the researchers concluded, “would seem to limit, rather than enhance, information acquisition.”25

[..] each glance represents a small interruption of thought, a momentary redeployment of mental resources, the cognitive cost can be high.