“It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of “reading” are emerging as users “power browse” horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.”
I absolutely agree with the statement above, regarding how we read content online. I am guilty of this when I am trying to get an assignment or an answer for research. I think that the problem is not necessary Google or the internet, but our current educational system. I know particularly when I was preparing for the SAT’s or other reading comprehension tests before college, I was taught to look for only the most important information. I was told to read the questions first and look for the answers in the passage. If I spent too much time trying to completely understand the content, I run out of time on the examination. I typically had trouble with reading comprehension exam because of this. Eventually, I learned how to skim read and only get the information that I need for the examination. I think the root cause of this problem starts in grade school with the standards of learning assessments, where the students are trained to look for the answers rather than formulating their own.
My ability to read long passages starts to demise when Google searches became extremely efficient. I started to notice that when I do a Google search, I would quickly skim the passage for what I need. If the page looks like it has too much text and the “find” function does not produce the answers I want, I would just click onto another link. I guess I am able to determine what formats of the pages will give me the quickest answer. I move on quickly if I do not like the format of the webpage. I feel like “power browse” technique does not allow the reader to fully comprehend the content that the author tries communicate to the user. This is problematic because I selectively pick out the information that I want to retain. In a sense, it is limiting my perspective because I have a pre-filter to disregard content that would take too much time to understand.
Finally, I think that discipline is a big factor on how well I can focus on a particular topic. For example, I did not write this entire blog post in a continuous streak. I would think of an idea and started to Google it. I started to skim a couple of paragraphs, and clicked on a couple of links. The next thing I realized was that I was on Amazon. I feel like my attention span for a topic is not very long. I think my minds works like this because of the demanding responsibilities of my positions. When I was taking 7-8 courses, I would constantly switch topics when I am stuck on something. This means I that can switch tasks almost every half hour. Additionally, my curiosity tends to derail my focus. I would be reading about a particular idea, and I found something that I did not understand. I would then keep Googling until I got the answer to the side question or realizing that I am way off track. If I want to be more productive this inefficiency is something that I need to work on.
I do not necessarily believe Google is making people “more stupid.” It just hampers the critical thinking process. I remember in my undergraduate, 90% of the questions that I had can be answered by Google. However, when I started to do my research, Google was not able to provide me with the answers that I needed. Therefore, I was forced to fully read the content and formulate my own answers. Google is a great tool to find basic information, but sole reliant on it will hamper the creative thought process.