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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Internet's Effect on My Patience and Attention Span

As Nicholas Carr mentions in his book The Shallows, “a popular medium molds what we see and how we see it – and eventually if we use it enough, it changes who we are” (Carr 3). My medium of preference is the internet of course, which I use very often. His statement suggests that the internet can change the way people think, the way their brains work, and even their personality. For me personally, I believe that the internet has affected my attention span and also my patience. A couple of my own stories and experiences illustrate Carr’s point.

When I was a young kid, we had a very slow internet connection at my house, probably dial-up. I was used to the slowness of it because I never knew that there was anything faster. I never found waiting for the internet to load in a little longer than a minute’s time mind-boggling. I sat there patiently waiting for the computer and the connection to do their thing, and never got frustrated. Now today, with the internet’s connection lightning-fast, I find myself wanting things instantly. If I’m on Facebook and a picture takes more than a few seconds to load, I’ll just exit out and move onto something else. I have no patience to wait for it. I find myself getting frustrated and very angry when the internet on my phone is less than 4G. I’m used to the fastest and I’m not going to settle for less, so I just come back to something later when the speed is much faster. The lack of patience even continues onto other parts of my life. For example, if I’m extremely hungry and my dad says that dinner will be ready in ten minutes or so, I’ll reach for a snack because I don’t even feel like waiting just ten minutes! This lack of patience is probably in part due to the internet. I’m afraid that in the future my patience will get even worse as a result of using the Web so often.

The internet has also had an effect on my attention span. I find myself getting so distracted many times and not being able to focus on something for more than maybe five minutes or so, and sometimes just a minute! When I was younger and in about elementary school, I would be able to immerse myself in a book for about an hour at a time, and have my full attention on the words and the story. Sometimes I would get so caught up with in the book that I’d almost feel like I was a part of it and I wouldn’t even hear someone calling my name. Today that doesn’t happen at all. I can barely read a page without looking at my phone for a text or at the Facebook newsfeed. Since we are so connected to each other through the internet, people are constantly in contact and want to be in the know. Another answer for my problem could be, for example, because of short articles online. We no longer have to read long pieces of articles to get news so we are not used to focusing on something more than a paragraph long in one sitting. Companies are just making it worse because as Carr states, “many producers are chopping up their products to fit the shorter attention spans of online consumers” (Carr 94). Although I don’t wish it, my attention span will probably stay the same or even get worse in the future, but who knows.

Jill Zalewski

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