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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Forget Facebook

The Internet is making me shallow, vain and a little bit mean.

Maybe it’s a cop-out to blame my character flaws on the World Wide Web, but I really think it’s true. The Internet is making me a worse person than I have the potential to be.

The value of the Internet has been studied and touted endlessly: instant, universal access to any and all information; something books and universities were never able to provide; plus entertainment beyond even the most avid television lover’s wildest dreams. All that, and the ability to add to it and interact with it, makes the Internet yours through sites like YouTube, Facebook and Wikipedia.

Recently, however, some researchers have begun pointing to the fact that all that access, access, access isn’t great for our brains.

Nicholas Carr, author of the 2008 Atlantic article “”Is Google making us stupid?”” which he has since expanded into a book, postulates that browsing the Web, especially when we jump endlessly from link to link, has stunted our attention spans and begun to eat away at our ability to engage deeply with texts. We are consumers of entertainment and information, but our ability to sink into and meditate on what we read and learn is rapidly vanishing.

Think about it — don’t we all browse Facebook while we read a book (providing, of course, that anyone still reads books)? Don’t we get three paragraphs into a news article online, then click on whatever link appears at the end? Even reading Carr’s article, which is nearly 5,000 well-chosen words long, I found myself suddenly in the middle of an Onion video about a parrot. It was like when you arrive home, clearly having driven there, but can’t remember the drive. How did I get here? Where did my brain go?

The afternoon I came to this conclusion about the Internet, I made an almost unconscionable decision for a 20-something college student. I deleted my Facebook.

OK, not deleted. I don’t even know if that’s possible, and anyway, I was worried (how sad is this) about losing everything on my profile, the 500-plus photos and the pithy status updates of which I’ve often been so pathetically proud. But I deactivated it, which means I vanished from the grid, for all intents and purposes. You can’t search me, interact with me or see my profile. It’s sort of awesome.

The weirdest thing about my tiny step off the beaten path of the Internet was how freaked out people got. Some old friends who should know better thought I had “”de-friended”” them.

A couple people panicked, sure my disappearance from Facebook meant I had disappeared for real, been abducted or died some grisly death.

As for me, I spent a few days feeling unmoored. My fingers itched toward the F-A-C keys whenever I opened my Internet browser. I updated my status myself, in my head, a few times a day. I even thought about blogging about my lame little attempt to give up the Internet. But then, not only would that utterly defeat the purpose, but who would want to read it?

I think the Internet is a pretty mean-spirited place — a place where anonymity brings out the worst in people, where 500 snarky words win out over well-reasoned, well-edited, beautiful prose. Writing online, and the 24-hour news cycle, seem to have all but eliminated the need for language that’s rich, deep and powerful. Hell, it seems to even have eliminated the need for an editor.

But you’re probably reading this online, and I’m certainly writing it in a way that will appeal to online readers — 650 words, tops, and lots of choppy dashes — so maybe we’re stuck here.

Maybe the Internet will win, and both lovely prose and our malnourished, information-glutted souls will lose.

But I hope not.

— Heather Price-Wright is a creative writing senior.

She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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