Nicholas Carr speaks to students about the dangers of the Internet


    Award-winning author Nicholas Carr said he wanted people to cut down on their Internet usage and return to critical thinking during a speech on TCU's campus.

    Carr's Pulitzer Prize nominated book, The Shallows:  What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, was chosen as this year's Common Reading for TCU's class of 2016.

    Carr spoke in the Brown-Lupton University Union ballroom on Monday night about his book and his theory that America's Internet-driven culture is rewiring the way that people's brains work.

    "Your brain is always changing and adapting to new environments and circumstances. The interesting way the Internet changes our brains is that our attitudes change in a matter of microseconds. If a web page takes longer than a second to load, we skip it and move on," Carr said. 

    The inspiration for Carr's book came when he began to notice he had a hard time concentrating on reading for long amounts of time. This observation turned into a 2008 Atlantic essay called "Is Google Making Us Stupid?", which became the basis for The Shallows. 

    "It seemed clear to me that my mind didn't want to stay focused on one thing at one time, and that was my inspiration for the book," Carr said.

    By living in a culture that values quantity over quality when it comes to information, Carr said people are losing an essential part of their humanity- the ability to think deeply. Activities like self-reflection and critical thinking are becoming less common, and Facebook and Twitter have taken their place.

    Carr said while the Internet does disrupt the brain's ability to focus, it is still a great research tool. He still stressed the importance of print, however.

    "I certainly used the web and Google for a lot of research when I wrote the book. I use it when I write anything, but I use those tools for what I think they're good for, which is discovering information. Whenever possible, I tried to go to a bookstore or a library to get the physical copy of whatever I was looking for and read it in print. The printed page really encourages you to read deeply, rather than when you have a window open on a computer with all sorts of other things going on," Carr said in an interview on Monday.

    Carr's speech struck a nerve with some of TCU's students.

    "I think that we should be mindful of the consequences of our thinking. Smartphone usage is what I want to cut down on the most. I almost want to just ditch my phone, because there's no reason I should be that addicted to it," senior FTDM major Daniel Floren said.

    "I thought it was a very interesting subject. I think it's really applicable to me going into college. I've made a big effort to cut down on my Internet usage in the last couple of months," first year biology major Sawyer Martin said.

    Carr did offer a solution for American society's information infatuation- recognize it as a problem.

    "We have to acknowledge that it's a problem and think about what messages society sends us. We have to have the discipline to disconnect occasionally," Carr said.