When I was in eighth grade, the world-wide web was just starting to become a world wide sensation. I remember gathering around a computer at my friend’s house instant messaging strangers from all over the world. I want to snatch my younger self out of that room for being in such a dangerous situation, but at the time I was completely unaware of the danger the internet exposed me to, so I was joyfully engaged in the activity with my friends.
Fast forward some twenty years and the internet has quite literally taken over our lives and our way of living. I only “log off” when I am doing missions work in Guatemala, and even then, on my last trip, I caught myself vigorously searching for a connection whenever I went into town or some other location that wasn’t as remote as our compound. Disconnecting from the web is simply difficult, nearly impossible in 2015 America. And to me, that poses a bigger threat to our safety than those little eighth grade girls back in 1996 searching for connection on the blank canvas of the interwebs.
The danger that exists today is one that we don’t often think about, simply because we are no longer fully thinking for ourselves. And that, dear readers, is the problem. The internet is a living organism that grows and thinks for us, and when so much information is available at my fingertips, why would I effortfully think for myself?
I see this happen in my world all the time. I am watching a movie and I want to know more about the actor. Twenty years ago, I would have called up a friend and carried on a meaningful conversation with him or her about the information I wanted to ascertain. Today, I unlock my iphone, turn to google, and find out every last detail about the actor, his divorce, every movie he has been in, and his dietary needs. I am inundated with information every single day, and in turn, I crave more information daily. Because it is so readily available, I expect to be able to find and know everything I want to find and know. This seems like a flawless system to live in, but I completely disagree. Where do I have the space and time to think for myself?
The greatest disservice we have given to this generation of learners is the lack of necessity to think for themselves. A great example of this happens in my English classes every single year. I assign work based on the reading we are doing in class. I ask the kids to figure out symbols in the novels and short stories, and I send them home hoping above all hopes they will pull the information from their beautifully creative brains. But that doesn’t happen as frequently as it should. And why would it? The internet is FULL of sources that tell and retell of every symbol, simile, and sound device ever used in a work of literature. Why think for myself when I can go to the interwebs and have other people and sources think for me? In truth, don’t blame my students for seeking out information that has been left behind for them to find: I understand the allure.
Though academic discipline exists and is enacted for such plagiarism, I think the greater damage is the lack of practice these children get in thinking for themselves and creating opportunities to learn in solitude. There is a confidence that comes with figuring out something hard on your own. The great reward of discovery is snatched out of our hands when we are spoon fed everything we ever want to know with minimal effort.
I love the internet, I really do. But I hate watching personal growth by thinking disappear with every passing keystroke. There has a be a balance in this age of technology where libraries have become museums. We need to consider making personal promises to ourselves and our children to think more, to challenge our brains more. As Oscar Wilde once said, “A man who doesn’t think for himself doesn’t think at all.”
Of course, a quick google search helped me find that quote. Such a beautiful tension we rest in….
Join the discussion below. Why do you think we rely so heavily on the internet? Fear of being wrong or something else?