Google is a "mental prosthetic," a new tool changing the way our brain stores information (or rather, does not store it), according to a study in Science. This is the first sign that we are getting a little too comfortable with the inter-webbed world. We all love the conveniences of technology, but this analogy is a bit scary.
True, life would be unimaginable without the luxuries of YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. However, we have yet to react to the changes our rapid-fire technology has brought. The information overload from the internet has led us to obsessively chase after perfection and doubt our own abilities.
Living in a world where information is readily available means we are constantly trying to squeeze more — in quality and quantity — into less. The experts behind the Science study argue that the large amount of information does not, in fact, make us lazy. Instead, the internet and its abundance of information have made us a generation of perfectionists. The internet allows us to be on our “A Game” 24/7, something the real world cannot offer. As we spend more time on the internet, we develop unrealistic expectations of ourselves and each other.
Let's examine our personal lives. How many times have you stared at your Facebook status update bar typing and re-typing the same status, trying for the right amount of enthusiasm and biting wit? With the internet as our platform and legacy, we have become more likely to "perform" in our online lives, constantly calculating how to put our best foot forward within the online community.
Studies also suggest that surfing Facebook boosts our self-esteem because it gives us control and we receive positive feedback from friends. Users are constantly un-tagging unflattering pictures and deleting any embarrassing status updates or comments. While this reflects the positives of social media, it also highlights our quest for online perfection; our online personas only feed into unrealistic expectations.
Beyond social circles, the internet has created a generation that seeks to be informed and factually correct to an unhealthy degree. If we are even slightly unsure of a fact, a Wikipedia page or quick Google search is an automatic response.
While this is all well and good when we still have experts to feed accurate information into the system, what will we become if a majority of them disappear? The internet is a great motivator for participation, but it can also motivate passivity in a massive sea of information; just look at the population of WikiAnswers.
Today's generation needs to set the norms and precedents for the future so society can adapt normally. The idea is not that technology is out to get us or ruin us; it is that we need to establish some fundamental new norms in order to use them effectively.
Perhaps the most disturbing, and telling, is an article that praises the changes our brains are enduring because of the internet; the author concludes, “We would be lost without internet.” Technology is a wonderful tool. Let’s make sure it stays just that — a powerful tool — but not a necessity.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons