"I don't read books," says Joe O'Shea, a former president of the student body at Florida State University and a 2008 recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship. "I go to Google, and I can absorb relevant information quickly." O'Shea, a philosophy major, doesn't see any reason to plow through chapters of text when it takes but a minute or two to cherry-pick the pertinent passages using Google Book Search. "Sitting down and going through a book from cover to cover doesn't make much sense," he says. "It's not a good use of my time, as I can get all the information I need faster through the Web." As soon as you learn to be "a skilled hunter" online, he argues, books become superfluous.
It's called "Generation Net"’no longer reading a page from left to right, from top to bottom, but skimming. "In a recent Phi Beta Kappa meeting, Duke University professor Katherine Hayles confessed, 'I can't get my students to read whole books anymore.' Hayles teaches English; the students she's talking about are students of literature."
What this means is that we increasingly think in "short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts" rather than "our old linear thought process." For the last five centuries, books have shaped our minds. "It may soon be yesterday's mind." Yet Carr experiences "information overload." "Take your time, the books whispered to me in their dusty voices. We're not going anywhere."
Dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, educators, and Web designers point to the same conclusion: when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning….The Net seizes our attention only to scatter it.
What we aren't doing when we're surfing the Net is as important as what we do when we're on it. "We become mindless consumers of data."
There's nothing wrong with browsing and scanning, or even power-browsing and power-scanning. We've always skimmed newspapers and books and magazines in order to get the gist of a piece of writing and decide whether it warrants a more thorough reading….What is different, and troubling, is that skimming is becoming our dominant mode of reading.
The Roman philosopher Seneca may have put it best two thousand years ago: "To be everywhere is to be nowhere."
The previous quotations were excerpted from The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, pages 9, 10, 12, 118, 120, 125, 138, and 141.