How the Internet is shaping our brains

There is an interesting article in The Atlantic about how the Internet may be shaping our thought patterns. The author makes the generalization (based on anecdotal evidence) that people tend to skim rather than read online, and that our ability to read with deep, sustained engagement becomes impaired as a result. He claims he cannot even read a long article anymore without getting distracted. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but it sounds to me like the author is taking web surfing and multitasking to extremes. I get a lot of information from the Internet, but I don't consider it a replacement for in-depth magazine/journal articles and books, and I still enjoy delving into a weighty tome for an hour at a time. Or several hours, if my newly arrived copy of Breaking Dawn has anything to do about it. People get information from a variety of media presented at different density levels, and that seems to me like a pretty healthy state of affairs. Sometimes we just want an overview, and sometimes we actually want to learn enough about a topic that we can carry on a conversation with others about it. How deep we want to go just depends on where our individual interests lie.

Admittedly, magazines nowadays (MIT Tech Review being one guilty party) are trying to appeal to the stereotype of a skim-happy public by encapsulating their articles in blurbs at the front of the magazine. Reading these predigested morsels in print, however, strikes me as a waste of time. After all, if I wanted shallow summaries, I could always go to the web site. (Well, actually, I'd check my RSS feed, but that's beside the point.) If I have gone to the trouble of procuring a physical magazine, with pages I can stare at without getting computer monitor glow fatigue, that conforms to the shape of my grip and doesn't mind getting rained on or stuffed into a bag alongside sharp metal objects like keys, I'm going to read whole articles. But maybe that's just me.