Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Internet Usage Kills Creativity!
Right, so I took a break and felt better pretty much immediately. I think just being able to make the decision that I have to blog if I didn't want to made the difference. Almost right away, I started thinking of far more things that I wanted to write about, for myself.

And then my computer died. The combination of the bright, shiny, new laptop and teaching a chapter on internet addiction have induced me to blog again. So I'll kick this off again with a thematic thought (see title).

The nice thing about teaching the highest level in the Intensive English Program is that the listening passages I'm forced to make my students listen to are actually authentic passages, mostly taken from NPR. While I don't think the students are greatly appreciative, I at least am entertained. A week or so ago, we did the chapter on internet addiction, which featured a passage from David Brooks, in which he posited that internet usage and the multitasking it promotes discourage creative thought.

The interviewer started by pointing out that multitasking appears to have made people smarter, at least according to IQ tests. Brooks responded, (rightly, I think,) that multitasking may have increased some forms of our intelligence, but it has harmed others, most notably the penchant for creative thought. In his opinion, creative thought requires time to think on a deeper level that allows one to make connections between seemingly disparate ideas. Multitasking requires a lot of surface thought activity and quick access to already existing knowledge, but doesn't allow time for the deeper thought that creativity needs.

I don't have a hard time believing this. Since I went to college and had my own internet connection, in addition to more responsibility for myself, I have felt like a lot of my creativity has dried up. Throughout middle and high school, I created stories as fast as my mind could think. I had conversations with made-up characters in my head on my walk home from school, I wrote stories in class when I was bored, I drew pictures of the characters when I couldn't think of plots for them to follow, I was determined to come up with a unique system of magic before I'd try to write anything serious, so I couldn't be seen as copying anyone. Heck, I even wrote super-short stories on the back of my SAT vocab quizzes in 10th grade, because we got extra credit if we used the last 5 words on the quiz in a connected paragraph, rather than disconnected sentences. (I think I threw them away in a fit of cleanliness, unfortunately. I could always tell what I had been reading right before the quiz, because I mimicked the styles unconsciously. Yes, I have always been a geek.)

But when I got to college, I never found time anymore. There were always people around, always homework to do, always email to be sent. I haven't drawn anything in years. I haven't started a new story since high school. I thought it was because college was actually challenging me to think more than my high school classes had, and was therefore pushing out the vast room for creativity I had before. Now I think it's because I didn't have the constant distractions of the internet around. My brain was free to contemplate and connect all the random thoughts and bits of knowledge that it wanted to, because there wasn't anything else to do. My thoughts were very much inside my head, circling around, feeding on each other and any new bits of knowledge I read. I kind of miss those days.

I'm glad I don't have a TV this year. It's one less distraction. Not having a working computer at home for nearly 2 weeks was also interesting, because I found myself thinking more actual thoughts, and less surface blather. Of course, who knows what will happen now. I am trying to cut back on my pointless computer usage, though. More time to read. More time to think.

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