This essay was written for a college assignment as a response to this article from The Atlantic by Nicholas Carr. A limit of three printed pages was enforced.
Everyone is concerned about the future, and what life will be like as time goes on. Young people are part of “the future”, and are constantly scrutinized because of it. Lives are analyzed, critiqued, and challenged en masse by those who are older and who often think that their way of life is better. A common analysis by this group currently is the thought that young people are inseparable from technology. Technology is something new, and anything new tends to also be scrutinized by older generations due to the unpredictability of how its use will affect the future. Nicholas Carr, the author of the article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” is particularly concerned about the effect of the most widely used search engine, Google, and how it may affect the future by making people, specifically the younger generations, stupid by lowering their attention spans. Despite the article’s claim, it’s very possible that the effects of Google and its impact on the internet are actually positive overall. A different way of thinking isn’t necessarily bad; nowadays we’re able to access more information at a quicker pace, and long form writing will still have importance even if it goes out of the mainstream.
Is the shortening of written pieces in everyday life really causing people to become dumber as Carr is suggesting? Maybe not, smaller pieces of information that we have become tuned to aren’t as bad as the author of the article makes them out to be. A good example of this could be that people had more time to read when traditional newspapers were more commonplace and had longer articles. However, studies have shown that the average person is busier, especially if they are part of a lower or middle class, making it so they don’t have the time to take information in like they used to be able to. Newspapers currently are being made so they’re easier to digest with smaller bits of information that the average person can access more quickly, allowing a person to learn and read more from the paper. Although the depth of knowledge is not the same as newspapers from before, the amount of exposure a person has is increased. In addition, the newspaper is not the only easily accessible source a person has now; the internet can easily be utilized to look up more about a subject a person may be interested in. The amount of sources and viewpoints are greatly increased with this method, ultimately allowing someone to make an even more informed opinion. Articles being smaller and easier to read allow people to be able to grasp more information and expose them to new information, namely to broaden their network of knowledge.
The reach of information isn’t limited to being able to read more, it allows people in various fields to improve beyond what they could have before. Artists, for example, can quickly google a picture and get a reference for art in seconds, while writers can join online communities and have their works critiqued by diverse ranges of people. Even more interestingly, large computer programs are “open sourced” and worked on by the public, allowing people with large amounts of experience to collaborate across the globe. Certain smaller and more casual open source programming projects allow inexperienced people to work as a team, see a final product they contributed to completed while gaining valuable experience. Even education, something that has become very costly recently, is more easily in reach of the average person. Full college courses and materials are available to the public as online courses and even pre-recorded lectures from such institutions as Stanford and MIT are freely available on the web. College level courses in general have been offered at a certain price on this copper highway or information, and offer certifications so that people know the course was completed in good standing. Without these opportunities, people would have had a lower chance to get training in a subject that would give them more opportunity in life.
Despite small pieces of information becoming so commonplace, longer writing is used by a not insubstantial part of the population and will take a significantly long time to eliminate if at all. There will always be an audience in a specific subject who will want more in depth information as well as others like them who will provide it. A poignant example of this might be that of academic papers published in specific journals that are not read by the general public but are instead used by and appreciated by professionals. These professionals need long form writing or else they risk the depth of information they require to not be available and therefore risk not having the ability to fully analyze the subject. Another fine example of this phenomenon is the not so small online community of reddit that has specific ‘subreddits’ dedicated to thoughtful and in-depth discussion in which it is not uncommon to find multi-paragraph essays in the original posts and comments. Examples are varied, and include serious subreddits like “Science” whose rules require that, “Every submission must be a direct link to or a summary of peer-reviewed research with appropriate citations” as well as hobby subreddits like “TrueAnime” that is self-described as “An exclusively discussion-oriented anime subreddit” and commonly includes comments and posts that are several paragraphs long as mentioned above. Thus, from professionals to hobbyists, long form reading is still common nowadays, and will continue to be so while audiences demand it.
Throughout the article, the author kept talking about how we have been thinking differently. But, is ‘different’ necessarily bad? Because of the internet and Google, people are able to access far more than they ever could and are able to learn from what they find. Humanity as whole has benefited by the additional ease of accessibility and as long as there’s that core niche audience, it seems highly unlikely that long form writing will completely die out. Google has connected us and has most definitely helped make the world a better place.