April 22nd, 2010

Is the Internet Making Us Stupid?

There’s a question being raised that keeps me up at night—Is the internet making us stupid?  I’ve been using the internet for years now and I’m wondering if I’ve actually lost IQ points as a result.  And if so, how do I get them back?  To answer this question, I’ll try two approaches—asking the internet and asking a librarian.

So, I type key words of my question into the Google search box:  “internet stupid” and press go.

First of all, I get 52 million responses in .47 seconds.  That’s the most productive thing I have ever done.  How can that be stupid?  Of course I only have time to look at the first page of results and Google knows which ones are the best ones, right?  I’m not so sure.  Here’s what Google found:

- Something Awful: The Internet Makes You Stupid: Daily internet news, reviews of horrible movies, etc.—No, not what I had in mind.
- Is the Internet Making us Stupid?:
This seems to try to answer my question.
- Image Results for Internet Stupid: The first image is titled “The Internet Makes You Look Stupid” and says that the internet doesn’t make you stupid, it just makes your stupidity more accessible to others. This seems true of the crew in the picture!
- Worst Problem on the Internet is Stupid Users
: Yes, but how did they get that way?
- Stupid Internet Tricks:
Not what I had in mind.
- Microsoft’s Internet Driving License: Stupid…but again, not helpful to my question.
- Is Google Making Us Stupid?: Finally, another serious article on my topic.
– And many, many more results that don’t answer my question…

Only 2 of the results actually address my question—the rest is of no use to me.

Now I’ll try what thousands of smarter people do in Cecil County all the time—I‘ll call a librarian and pose the question. Here’s my personal response from Angela Prandini, Adult Services Librarian:

“Using our Health and Wellness Resource Center database, I searched using the terms ‘internet and brain’.  This yielded several articles on how surfing the web helps to keep Seniors’ brains sharp. The same search had an article by Jule Klotter about how technology, especially social networking on the internet, causes a decrease in direct contact with other humans. The article is brief but it touches on several points, good and bad, regarding the impact of the internet. Here’s also an interesting blog that points out the good and bad.”

So here’s the lesson—the internet gives tons of information, but you have to weed through a lot of garbage.  Librarians are internet and information experts who provide thoughtful and complete answers from good sources, including specialized databases.  They judge the quality and veracity of where information comes from and filter out the junk. Call, visit or email your librarians with your next question and see what great results they produce.

I’m still not sure if I’m any smarter thanks to the internet, but I do know that asking the help of a trained librarian is ALWAYS a smart thing to do.

What do you think?  Is the internet making us dumber?  How do you deal with the overabundance of web information?


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