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How the Internet is Warping Our Brains (and what to do about it…)

Illusion of MindOur use of computers is shaping our common vocabulary.

(Heard on the street, boy to mother: “When are you going to upgrade my allowance?”)

Vocabularies are always evolving so maybe this isn’t a problem.

But what if how we use the Internet is invading our brains – shaping our thinking and changing the way we deal with each other as humans?

That’s scarier.

Here are signs of brain-warp I’ve detected in myself recently:

1.) Needing the answers NOW: Clicking and hyperlinks

I’ve gotten used to thinking that I should be able to change reality – or at least get what I need to know – with a double click/right click. My habit has been fed with lots of valuable and useful information on-line.

But double clicking doesn’t always translate well into working with others.

I’m at the doctor’s, and I wonder why they can’t, RIGHT CLICK, give me my results immediately. Or, I talk to a customer service representative and I become righteous because, DOUBLE CLICK, it shouldn’t take this long and I’m entitled to an immediate answer.

 I’m expecting more and tolerating less.

Are we losing our capacity to do what the poet Rilke suggested, in his famous writings to a young poet:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…”

Who has time to “love the questions” these days?

2.) Mining in a fast moving stream: Facebook and Twitter

Reading Facebook or Twitter is like standing in a rapids looking for the glint of gold while stones tumble down from upstream.

You miss them and they’re gone.

Posting to Facebook or Twitter is like putting your message into a bottle and heaving it into the river. If you’re lucky, your message may get “liked” but, then again, it may never be seen.

Social media teaches us that urgency trumps importance. Today’s late breaking news (more critical info on the Kardashians) will be everywhere until, tomorrow, it’s gone.

I feel my sense of futility building, even as I enjoy social media, when I pause to wonder “does any of this really matter?”

 3.) Moving from reading to scanning.

The savvy team over at put the truth bluntly: we don’t read the Internet, we scan it.

Internet-savvy writers know: your headline is key (along with an image) because that’s all most people are likely to see.

Only reading headlines reminds me of a fancy colleague from years ago who used to eat the crunchy tops off all her bran muffins, leaving little muffin carcasses all around her kitchen.

We chomp the top of the news by reading headlines and leave the rest.

Today, many graduate schools I admire are suffering because folks are increasingly questioning the need for a degree. Why spend two years in deep study and reflection when you can take all the skill classes you need on the Internet?

Reading headlines will make us all mini-experts – or so we think.

How to take back our brains

I’ve been participating in a 22-day technology challenge with the good folks over at, exploring how to bring intentionality and mindfulness into our relationship with our computers. Maybe next week, I can share some of their ideas.

Meanwhile, I’m starting my own list:

  1. Remember how wonderful it is that humans aren’t machines, and practice patience whlen service providers don’t provide instant answers (or meet my every expectation).


  1. Imagine adding a dose of heartfelt energy to my social media posts and responses. What if instead of responding quickly to posts floating by, I took time to write a response that could put a smile on one person’s face?


  1. Intentionally choose a few things I want to read or follow, and take the time to digest them beyond the headlines. Choose a few questions to explore deeply, over time. Or stop, breathe, and read a book.

Lots more ideas to come. But first…where do you suffer from Internet-brain-warping and what are you doing about it?







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