This afternoon our son suggested, kindly, that I might enjoy the challenge of training my brain, and recommended a site he uses called Luminosity. More or less simultaneously I spotted a link – needless to say, on Twitter, to an article by Graham Jones, an ‘Internet Psychologist’ in which he claims, very convincingly that regular use of the Internet affects our intellect and memory.
The bogey used to be too much telly making one fat and passive, now the threat is our intellect and memory shrinking through lack of use: in other words, brain rot, brought on by being locked excessively in an intimate and essentially superficial world of one’s own, shared only with a computer/tablet/smart phone. And we’re still all getting fat because we’re still all sitting all the time. We’ve just swopped one screen for another.
So, I am wondering, should one try to redress the balance, and embark on these brain games? I think yes, ‘if only for the fun of it’, but deep down it feels much more than simply fun. Apparently most people are unaware that they no longer rely on their memory, or their intellect, but rely on the internet to nanny them. We are spoon-fed bulleted facts, reminders, calculations, grammar and punctuation. We have become impatient for results, lazy, with the attention span of a butterfly. None of this is hard to believe.
As an ex-teacher, I cannot help noticing too that we are all tending to adopt a kind of text speak ‘Twitteresque’ style. People tend to write in soundbites, the fairly limited conventional vocabulary is liberally peppered with ‘OMG’, ‘LOL’ ‘Wowees’ etc; they/we are more ‘emotional’ and extravagant with praise or criticism, quick to jump to conclusions rather than to take a measured approach. It is all rather superficial. However, it is very easy, very tempting – we don’t have to think too deeply and this all makes life simpler in the short term, and certainly more sociable via the keypad.
Does it make us more sociable in reality? I am always struck by the number of young couples one sees, arm in arm as they walk down the street, each transfixed – not by each other – but by an individual smartphone which holds their entire attention, away from each other. Are they texting one another? Are the sweet nothings coming via the screen? Or are they confiding to their separate friends the fact they’re walking down with the road with each other…? ‘OMG, wowed, I’m sooooooooooo excited…”.
But perhaps one is too harsh. Maybe they are playing brain games. I read encouraging reports from Luminosity readers about improved memory and concentration, becoming more alert, thinking more clearly and I am ressured to read that ‘the brain can reorganize itself when confronted with new challenges, even through adulthood. If you hear nothing more it will be not through modesty, but embarrassment.