Does using social media make us dumber?
That’s a question author Nicholas Carr posed in his wonderful book The Internet and Our Brains: A Shallow Look at the TruthIn 2011.
The book is not well-worn. I don’t mean the information is not important or is outdated. I mean we’re now even dumber. We have become intellectually inept or simply stupid by constantly searching the internet for knowledge and scrolling through social media.
We don’t need to memorize the meaning of new words; we can look them up. We don’t need to look at a map and figure out where to drive; we let Google tell us.
Carr discusses how the cultural shift created unhealthy habits. Our brains are filling up with more knowledge as we surf and use social media, but the data is falling out the back of our brains at an alarming rate—and it’s getting worse.
Data is consumed more frequently and data retention less.
“The brain’s capacity is not limited,” Carr wrote in a new introduction to his book. “The passageway from perception to understanding is narrow. It takes patience and concentration to evaluate new information—to gauge the accuracy, to weigh its relevance and worth, to put it into context—and the internet, by design, subverts patience and concentration.”
Author John Eldredge has called this “the constant barrage of the trivial.” He notes in his amazing book Take Back Your Life: Daily Practices to a World Gone MadThe brain develops higher brain functions, such as empathy and perception toward other people at a slower rate. Carr states that approximately half of the time we spend staring at screens is spent in our day. It’s no wonder we’re all a little less engaged with each other. We’re frantic about clicking all day, but as Carr notes, we now spend only six minutes per day reading books.
Is Knowledge Really Knowledge?
It is worth asking the question, “Why do we care?”
It seems that no task ever gets completed in this day and age. We don’t Learn more anymore. There’s always another website or link to share. Each click is a click away from another. We’re continually accumulating superficial knowledge we’ll never use.
You are constantly in a state of superficiality.
Is all that surface knowledge really worth it? But not really. There is more information than there is noise. It’s swirling all around us. Whatever we’re experiencing—tech obsession, morbid obesity, drug use, marital woes—the solution we have picked of mindlessly using social media is not working.
There are two Greek words that can be translated as “for” and “for”. Information. I’ll spare you the actual Greek terms, but cutting to the chase, one word for Learn moreIt is the accumulation of knowledge. Our email addresses and telephone numbers are known. The names of the children, the gerbils, dogs, and cats are all known to us. Some of us would like to forget we have a cat, but that’s another story.
Second type Learn moreThis is far more exciting. It is the Greek word meaning this kind of knowledge. Intimate knowledge. I’m not talking about facts and figures. Knowing more about those we love is key to understanding them and learning on a deeper level.
Unfortunately, social media is always about the first type of knowing. Each new post adds noise to the mix and causes more anxiety. “Being busy does not always mean real work,” wrote Thomas Edison. This comes from someone who didn’t even use Instagram.
The clicks are what we like. It’s the same feeling as being productive when you like posts. We are curious to know why social media is so popular. The great deception is that we’re not getting smarter after all.
Why are we so obsessed with social media?
Like all bad habits, we honestly don’t know why we use social media so often. It’s a reckless abandon to wasted time.
When we go online, it’s easy to fall into a routine of repeating the same things over and over again. We check TikTok even when we know it’s mindless drivel. Many hours later, we visit Twitter to find out if it’s on air.
We should consider the value we perceive in an activity or task before we decide what to do.
This should be enough to motivate us.
With social media, it doesn’t seem to work that way. It is easier to do tasks or activities of no value. We do what we can because there is no value. Maybe that’s the point: driving nowhere.
All that we do is important, and time is precious. Intentionalism is about more than self-development. This includes mindfulness of inner thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Each day’s tasks should be in line with the underlying purpose. You don’t have to go on Pinterest every day. Spending three hours just looking at ornaments for trees is a good idea. It’s probably not even the holidays.
Social media time should not be wasted. We need to complete tasks quickly and get back in the real world, where we can make an impact.
Vapid scrolling won’t provide fulfillment, so developing better social media habits makes sense. More intentional social media habits also addresses a serious workplace problem: we’re not really working when we’re scrolling. Kronos Incorporated found that many people engage in “What they call” social media. Fake work. Half of what we do each day doesn’t advance the mission or purpose of the company.
We can live more joyfully and with greater purpose when we have more time to do the things that are important in our lives. We don’t have to worry about success or pursuing more knowledge or more facts.
Is there a way we can find wonder at work? It’s not on the web. According to IDC, the average worker in an office spends around 30% of their time looking for information online. That’s two and a half hours per day.
Sadly, we’re not talking about purposeful improvement here. We’re talking about what productivity expert Cal Newport calls the Hyperactive hivemind. He explained to me how online research encourages the creation of rabbit trails in a recent conversation. It might be our job to do web research, so we dive in on Google and later discover we’ve wasted countless hours surfing. This is because we believe the original task was valid. The technology tells us what to do and when.
“We need to start by figuring out what is important and then strategically deploy technology in very specific ways,” he suggested.
His next point was to explain how intentionality with social media involves figuring out what’s meaningful and restorative.
It is easy to go wrong. On Instagram, we start an Instagram doomsday scroll and allow the technology to dictate our meaning.
“Once you know what you will use technology for, you can work backward and use it on your own terms,” he says. “Some of us need to be really drastic. We need to stop seeing technology as a psychological pacifier and a distraction.”
We often use social media to fill our brains full of useless information, which can cause a false sense that we are productive. Our brains hurt a little when we do this, but we can’t stop. Are we actually achieving any of our goals? Does knowledge accumulation work? Are we being slaves or is the knowledge accumulation helping? I’d argue that constant social media use is creating hapless minions who don’t know what we’re talking about half the time.
Do you know what a minions looks like? Minions are a yellow blob with no brain.
Extra from my book The 7-Minute Productivity Solutions.