Neal Cook, Front Rush
The internet is a beautiful thing. But is it making us smarter?
Kabir Sehgal, author and former vice-president of J.P. Morgan doesn’t believe so, saying ‘“While the Internet gives us access to more information than before, paradoxically, we are becoming dimmer and more superficial as a people.”
One of his reasonings is that by reading articles online, which is commonly done by searching, clicking, quickly scanning, being distracted by the ads, pictures and hyperlinks, we are only retaining our “working memory,” and not our “long-term memory.” The long-term memory is where we store “schemas” that help us organize our thoughts and concepts.
So, by reading an article online, our mind doesn’t take in the full meaning and point of the article. Therefore, it doesn’t connect the information learned to our previous memories/thoughts. You could argue that reading online is a waste of time.
Reading a book on the other hand, since you are focused and not as stimulated, can lead to retaining longer-term memory.
From first-hand experience, this is true. I read an average of 15 articles a week, but, when a week later I try to recall the purpose or argument of an article to a friend, I’m at a loss for words as to the actual point of the article.
A typical article I read online follows this timeline:
Hmm..this article sounds fascinating…let me click on it and read it
Starts reading for 10 seconds
Eyes focus on the banner ad on the top of the page
See a reference link in the article, click on that link, skim it, click back to the original article
My iMessage sound goes off, even if I don’t want to read it, my mind is already distracted
I don’t check my iMessage, but continue reading
My New Mail sound goes off, again, I don’t read it, but I’m distracted
Finish the article
Reflect on what I read for about 3 seconds
Then check my iMessage and Mail and move on to the next “thing” in my life
No wonder I can’t recall the fundamental point behind that article to my friend. I vaguely remember the summary of the reading.
But when I read a book, I’m immersed in that book. It has 100% of my attention and focus. It sticks with me, and I can recall quickly what the book was trying to convey.
So, how can you and I become smarter when reading articles online?
I came up with these three tips. I’d love to hear if you have any tips or how you deal with reading online.
- Only read articles during a particular time of the day
Next week I’ll share with you the app I use to save all my articles to read at a later date in a clean, ad-less format. But for starters, when you see something interesting online DON’T READ IT RIGHT AWAY. Don’t click on it, however tempting it may be. Instead, only commit to reading articles online during a certain period of the day (i.e., an hour after breakfast, a half hour during lunch, after dinner). By doing so, your brain is not skimming and forgetting what you are reading multiple times a day.
- Turn off wifi when reading an article online
Once your article fully loads, turn off your wifi or put your computer/phone on “airplane mode.” You’ll still be able to read the entire article, but you won’t be distracted by text messages, annoying sounds, notifications, and even if you are tempted to click on another link/picture, it won’t work when you do so.
- For every article you read – reflect for 60 seconds
There are so, so many articles/studies that show the immense benefits of reflecting multiple times a day. After you finish an article, think about that article. Ask questions. Do you agree with the author? Did you learn something new? Does this change your beliefs? Are you more interested in this subject? Was it worth your time? Do you feel smarter after reading? Or dumber?
Think about it. Remember it. And it will stick in your long-term memory so you can recall that information when it’s needed (or when you get the chance to play Jeopardy).
Next week I’ll share with your the app I use to store articles I want to read.
If this article made your dumber, I apologize!!!