So my topic for the Unit 4 project is on internet addiction and internet ADD. There’s a lot of debate on whether the internet makes students smarter and more capable or makes them dumber and more dependent on technology to survive. This debate is fueled by the fact that students are now constantly connected to Facebook, Twitter, or whatever other site that strikes their fancy.
In class, on the bus, at home, at work, it doesn’t matter anymore. With laptops, tablets, and smatphones, the internet is never far away. And it invades everything. Nowadays I find that I can’t go for more than twenty minutes of just sitting around without reaching for the keyboard just to do something—anything—online. It actually really creeps me out; it’s like a drug. A need for constant content from a computer screen.
In more academic terms, this is sometimes referred to as internet multitasking—a term which implies that students who are online in class are somehow actually managing to get work done at the same time. Which is complete tomfoolery.
Oh, we’d all like to believe that we can peruse our friends’ Facebook statuses and take notes at the same time. We all try to do it, and we think that we succeed. But we don’t. Studies show we don’t. Our own personal anecdotes tell us that we don’t.
Is this a problem? Yes.
Oh, I’m sure there are benefits to being internet savvy. There are. But I also feel like I would be ignoring what’s right in my face to deny that my own constant craving for the interwebs sometimes distracts me from much more important things. Like going to the grocery store. Or getting my car’s oil changed. Or studying for exams. Or getting projects finished. (I know, I really probably shouldn’t be admitting to this problem on a class blog… my only defense is that it’s generally other classes that I ignore with the internet, not this one.)
I don’t know when the internet changed from being primarily a source of information to being primarily a source of entertainment. Probably somewhere around the time that flash sites became huge and kids started playing really stupid flash games on sites like Newgrounds. Though it may have been before then. But it really bothers me that I can’t have uninterrupted thoughts anymore.
I will literally be sitting down at my laptop with the intent to work on a paper, and before I know it, I’ve involuntarily and reflexively opened Facebook and about three other sites I frequent. In the space of about six seconds. Without even realizing what I’ve done.
That. Is. Creepy.
Now I’m not saying that a lot of people have this problem, but a lot of people have this problem. The good news is that one of the studies I read for my project suggests that this sort of behavior will reach a critical mass and then correct itself. But that’s not exactly comforting. Basically it means that this internet addiction will have to get so bad that it starts to ruin things in a person’s life, at which point they realize they need to cool it with the tubes and maybe reevaluate their web surfing habits.
In the meantime, yet further studies show that people who still have this problem of compulsively “multitasking” on the internet routinely suffer from lower grades and lower test performance. And just to add insult to injury, they even perform worse at multitasking than people who don’t multitask on the internet!
So maybe next time you find yourself meandering around on your Facebook page with absolutely no plan and no reason to be there other than being there, consider whether you might have an internet problem.