The World That's Coming

July 20, 2012 Techthoughts

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.

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