Pushing My Brain

Recently, I have been feeling like I have been pushing my brain to do everything. I walk in the store and forget the most important thing I went to the store for (even if I write a list I still end up forgetting something). I have to fight even more lately when having to do academic tasks; staying focused while reading, academic writing, and critical thinking. I have to push, pull and drag my brain to do any of these tasks. Nicholas Carr’s, ” Is Google Making Us Stupid?” made me feel a little better about myself, especially when he states, ” The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing”. Has my brain rejected reading and absorbing long articles due to time spend on the Web and media? Or am I just running into an end of the semester brain blockade? Probably both but I am not intrigued in the research of how internet use affects cognition.  “a form of skimming activity” that is what the internet has taught our brains to do is skim. I can admit that even on my leisure time when I am on social media if something is too long for me to skim and get what the writer is telling me I don’t read it.  Carr discusses a study that suggests that there are “new forms of reading emerging”  and the study also states that “It almost seems that they (participants of the study) go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense”.

I mean this all makes sense to me, today we read often throughout the day. This could be a form of me making an excuse for my end of the year laziness but I do have to say before reading Carr’s piece I was a bit concerned about my attention span and cognitive absorption while reading long academic readings and articles, and just long readings in general.

“Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. But it’s a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking—perhaps even a new sense of the self. “We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University…“We are how we read.” Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace… Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.”

Though this may ease my mind a little about how I have been feeling lately, at the same time I am truly concerned. If I have to be a human being in 2017 and a scholar is there a way to “fight” back, adapt and do both without feeling inadequate, a bit intimated, and feeling like I am pushing and dragging my brain when reading an extensive document?

The Net’s influence doesn’t end at the edges of a computer screen, either. As people’s minds become attuned to the crazy quilt of Internet media, traditional media have to adapt to the audience’s new expectations. Television programs add text crawls and pop-up ads, and magazines and newspapers shorten their articles, introduce capsule summaries, and crowd their pages with easy-to-browse info-snippets.

This blog maybe filled with quotes  but I have been internalizing my abilities lately so the topic this week has simultaneously brought me comfort and concern.

3 Replies to “Pushing My Brain”

  1. Thanks for your post! I feel like much of what you described in this post could also be descriptors of me. I’ve been absentminded like that for years. I’m now starting to wonder how much of that is the culture we live in and how much is the situations I continually place myself in (i.e. returning to college again and again!) I know for how much I have on my plate at once (classes, internship, GA, family to take care of, etc.) that skimming over most of my readings gives me at least enough information to stay mostly up to date without using up all of the limited time I have left in a week. Ironically enough, I found myself starting to skim through your post (I know, bad Alex), so I had to remind myself to actually read the entire post (it really isn’t that long). All of this makes me wonder where our culture may be headed if “how” we read has evolved so much in the relatively short time that modern technology has been in our lives…

  2. I appreciated the quotes, Jariah. I think we all get a bit frazzled this time of the semester, and our habits of reading and communicating on our laptops and phones probably aren’t helpful in that regard. But I don’t think these new modes of reading are “bad.” They are just different — an addition to but not substitute for long form reading and sustained, focused concentration. The trick (and it isn’t easy) is to learn how to be more deliberate about which mode we’re in and why.

  3. While I can’t argue with the arguments made in the reading this week regarding our difficulties in concentrating on long reading passages, I think that reading long, difficult passages (think academic reading) has always been difficult. It has always taken deliberate and practiced concentration to wade through this type of reading. I agree that this becomes more difficult with less practice, but all it takes to get better is practice.
    When I was an undergraduate, I spent a lot of time reading textbooks and articles that were densely packed with ideas and language that were new to me. By the end of my undergrad years, I couldn’t read for more than 20-30 minutes without falling asleep! I has always been an avid reader, but the sustained practice of reading material that put me to sleep rewired me to doze off upon reading anything! Fortunately, I retrained myself to enjoy reading after a couple of years away from school. I think my experience was similar to the distraction of the internet. Now I just flip to a different website instead of sleeping.

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