The Internet Really Is Bad For You

Questions about the Internet’s deleterious effects on the mind are at least as old as hyperlinks. But even among Web skeptics, the idea that a new technology might influence how we think and feel—let alone contribute to a great American crack-up—was considered silly and naive, like waving a cane at electric light or blaming the television for kids these days. Instead, the Internet was seen as just another medium, a delivery system, not a diabolical machine. It made people happier and more productive. And where was the proof otherwise?

Now, however, the proof is starting to pile up. The first good, peer-reviewed research is emerging, and the picture is much gloomier than the trumpet blasts of Web utopians have allowed. The current incarnation of the Internet—portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive—may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways.

– From “Is The Web Driving Us Mad?,” here. Reading this, I was reminded of this recent study from the UK, which makes the same point; the Internet is/can be bad for us. Depressingly, I’m not surprised; I have found myself having that very described anxiety and “need” to check the Internet and see what’s happening, and I tell myself that I need to for my job, even though I know that’s not exactly what’s going on. It’s why I’ve started to try to remain unplugged during the weekends, or at least as unplugged as possible. Redirecting that desire to read things and learn things, and instead looking for other experiences to fill up that part of me.

“One of the Only Barriers of People Publishing is People Have to Type. What if That Goes Away?”

I have one of the new iPads. For both my email and Twitter, I’m able to talk into it and get speech to text (with Dragonfly voice-recognition software). It’s become more and more efficacious, which is great and convenient. If you start to think — one of the only barriers of people publishing is people have to type. What if that goes away? Just a huge explosion. Instead of going on the phone and talking about prom night, we’re either at or near a place where they can speak it in their phone and it’ll appear in text. What if people don’t have to type to get it into there? Does that make what we do more or less valuable? There’s more for us to sift through. But we’re the signal in the noise, and it’ll make us more valuable. I’m fairly democratic in my impulses. I don’t want more crap out there, but I think the fact that I need to type my thoughts means I share less of them.

New York Times journalist, David Carr.

(I have to admit, I have thought about speech recognition software as a way to speed up my writing process many times. I am terrible at typing, somewhat ironically for a professional writer; what keeps me away from using any kind of speech recognition is the fact that I’m convinced my accent will prove so confusing to it that I’ll likely spend more time correcting transcription errors.)

On Social Media and Narcissism

From the Guardian:

Researchers have established a direct link between the number of friends you have on Facebook and the degree to which you are a “socially disruptive” narcissist, confirming the conclusions of many social media sceptics…

The latest study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, also found that narcissists responded more aggressively to derogatory comments made about them on the social networking site’s public walls and changed their profile pictures more often.

A number of previous studies have linked narcissism with Facebook use, but this is some of the first evidence of a direct relationship between Facebook friends and the most “toxic” elements of narcissistic personality disorder.

I have a love-hate relationship with social media: I am addicted to Twitter, but rarely on Facebook or Google+, despite having accounts on both. If I hadn’t been required as a writer for Gawker and Time to keep my Facebook account and make it public as part of the attempt to make writers more like peers than experts (There’s definitely a blog post at some point there about that, and the internal tension that though process has, considering the way that writers are required/pushed to position what they write, but that’s for another time), I strongly suspect that I’d have deleted or abandoned my Facebook account some time ago, and I’m only really making tentative steps into Google+ now, months after it was launched and when everyone is declaring the concept dead.

That said, I’m not sure that the right angle is being taken with this report; it sounds more like the conclusion is “Narcissists are very narcissistic about their social media profiles!” than “People who change their social media profiles a lot are narcissists!” if that makes sense. The “link” between the two may be there, but it feels like a jump in logic to go from A to B, in the same way that you wouldn’t look at common traits in serial killers and then announce “If you’re right handed, you may be a serial killer.”

That said, what do I know? I haven’t changed my Twitter avatar in something like two years.