Recently, a friend of mine asked me, on Facebook, if I was familiar with the on-line magazine, “Edge.” She thought I might be interested in a question that the magazine asked, “How is the internet changing the way you think?” The minute I read the question, many thoughts ran through my mind. My first thought was that I would find my life much less fulfilled without the internet.
Now, don’t misunderstand what I mean by saying that my life would be much less fulfilled. You see, I think my life would be fulfilled without the internet, but it would also be much more difficult to fulfill it. It would be difficult to make it as rich as it is without the internet. Perhaps the most difficult thing without the internet would be getting information. The internet makes it so easy to obtain and assess information.
I went to the website of Edge and read the question the magazine posed, along with other related questions asked by a diverse group of people not necessarily associated with the online publication. After thinking about the question for a few minutes, I sent the following response to my friend. It has been edited for this post.
Hello _____, (name omitted for privacy reasons),
No, I am not familiar with the online magazine, Edge. I went to the link you gave me and read, “How is the internet changing the way you think?”
First of all, thanks for thinking of me and thanks for sending it. You, of course, know that I think questions drive thinking. It is for that reason, most of the posts on my blog start with a question in the title. Actually, 99% of the time they start, in my mind, with a question.
Referring back to the article on Edge, I think it is obvious and inevitable that the internet is changing the way I think. Of course, the question was, “HOW is the internet changing the way you think?” That IS an interesting question!
Access to information at the “speed of google” has had a profound effect on my way of thinking. Not knowing about a particular topic, idea, person, place, concept, etc… is not nearly the problem for me that it used to be. I no longer have to find a current encyclopedia, dictionary, newspaper, reference book, etc… in order to “gather” the information. The internet has changed the way I think by making it easier and faster to get necessary information, along with adding a high level of confidence in the accuracy of what I receive.
Easy and affordable global communication has helped me communicate my thoughts in a much better and efficient manner. Using the language arts to access my thinking and then the internet to exchange thoughts with others throughout the world, has changed when, how and what I think.
Having the ability to use a computer and the internet to “write for learning” and publish my writing has changed the way I think. When I was teaching in high school and wrote for learning, I would often published what I wrote for the faculty and/or students. When doing so, I would have to write, duplicate and deliver by hand. In order to “write for learning” most of my “thinking time” was spent on non-thinking chores. Now, I can publish on my website or blog and easily reach my audience with almost all of my effort dedicated to thinking and writing.
When reading a book, article or any other writing in hard copy, I used to be at the mercy of the author for most of my thinking about what was written in the hard-copy item. The internet expands that by multi-fold! With the use of hypertext and google, I’m not as dependent upon the author’s writing to get different points of view. In my opinion, this is powerful and revolutionary.
Another very important change in the way I think, which was brought on by the internet, is an increase of intellectual curiosity. I think I have always had a reasonable amount of intellectual curiosity, but the internet offers a way of almost instant gratification when I am intellectually curious. For me, the internet has enhanced this valuable intellectual trait.
These are some of the ways that the internet is changing the way I think. One other very personal way, is how the internet is changing my thinking as a retired person. Compared to the previous generations of retired people, I have greater access to the world as it is. Before, if a retired person was interested in learning about ______ (you fill in the blank), the person would be restricted to old writings, TV, radio, etc.. I’m not implying that the information was necessarily incorrect, but that it wasn’t as timely as it is through the internet. And, being able to use the internet for information about travel routes, restaurant locations, menus and other points of interests, before going anywhere, has changed how this retired person thinks.
Ok, those are some of my answers to the question posed by Edge.
Other related questions, posed by some of the previously mentioned diverse group of people are like desert for the food for thought question posed by “Edge.” Consider Nicholas Carr’s question, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Or, how about George Dyson’s question, “What if the cost of machines that think is people who don’t?” Good questions that might provide more “fodder” for a future post. :-)
What are some of your “foods for thought” regarding how the internet is changing the way you think?