Google is Making Us Stupid: Truth Or Lie

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It’s no secret we all use Google as a helping hand whenever we quickly need information. It’s very convenient, speedy, and is correct about the information. We all love it, but is it making us stupid? Author Nicholas Carr wrote an article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, and appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Wired in 2008. In his article, he argues that people grow to the customs of convenience from Google and change the way we think. Carr begins building his credibility by providing examples of how Google changes your way of thinking, citing convincing sources and scientific studies of people who feel the same; this an effective way of persuasion because it builds credibility. He also successfully employed emotional appeals such as similes, metaphors, personification, and more. Carr also uses ethos to form a credible basis for his claims and strongly uses pathos to connect with the audience.

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In his article, he first sets the stage by describing a specific part in the movie A Space Odyssey, where Dave Bowman is shutting down an artificial “brain” and the supercomputer HAL pleads “Dave, I can feel it, I can feel it”. Long story short, Carr correlates this scene with his own self and mind. He feels as if his usual mindset is changing and he’s not thinking the way he used to think. He makes an argument about how the internet is designed to create distractions, making it hard to focus for long periods of time. Our brains have adapted to this mindset, proving that it does, in fact, re-wire your brain. This is troubling because it takes away our focus, our creativity, our ability to read lengthy passages, etc. Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, “what the NET seems to do doing is chipping away my compacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the NET distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles.” (McLuhan 426). This is important because it connects the readers with the author and tells us exactly where his headspace is at. Carr is not the only one who believes this, “When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more you have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing.” (Carr 426). He further builds his credibility by including sources who believe the same thing he does. Many include Scott Karp, who was a lit major in college said, “I’m not just seeking convenience, but the way I think has changed.”; Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers and medicine said, “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print.”; and many other credible sources.

A rhetoric strategy Nicholas Carr uses is the appeal to Pathos. By definition, pathos is described as an important tool of persuasion in arguments. Pathos is an appeal to emotion, a quality of an experience in life, or a work of art, that stirs up emotions of pity, sympathy, and sorrow. Carr uses pathos in his second paragraph by telling us how he uses to “spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose.” He follows up by saying that now he gets fidgety” and “loses the thread”. By showing this situation as a before and after format, makes the readers feel sympathy for his struggle. He uses pathos in a quote I mentioned above from a fellow blogger, Bruce Friedman when he admits to not being able to read war and peace anymore, indicating that he has lost his ability to absorb that much information anymore. This is an appeal to pathos because the word ‘anymore’ means that War and Peace have been read by Friedman many times before, making the readers feel pity and sadness for his lost ability. Ethos is the appeal to ethics and is a way to establish credibility. In his paragraph where he talks about the study done by scholars from the University College London, he states, “people might be in the midst of a sea change in the way people read and think”. This is showing ethos to his claims because the University College London is a reliable source and it shows that Carr isn’t the only one experiencing these difficulties. To follow that, he quotes a professor of neuroscience, James Olds, who claims the brain can “reprogram itself on the fly,” supporting what’s said above about how the Internet changes our thinking habits.

Another rhetoric strategy Carr uses is the use of metaphors, similes, and personification. In paragraph four, he states that he “was once a scuba diver in the sea of words, now I zip along the surface like a guy on a jet ski.” This metaphor helps drive home his point that he used to be able to read deeply, and now he seeks convenience and quick information. By using the words ‘scuba diver’ and ‘sea’ it gives the article depth because a scuba diver fully surrounds himself in water (or the words, as Carr described it as), while approaching the simile, zipping along the surface like a jet ski. This simile is a correlation to skimming pages while you are reading, and really gives a perfect mental picture of a jet ski only scratching the surface and not actually going all in. Another figure of speech Carr uses would be personification. Personification is “the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form; intended to represent an abstract quality.” An example of this would be when he used the Internet as a force to actually be scared of, “…of how, exactly, it’s reprogramming us.” (Carr). By saying the computers are reprogramming us, it gives us a sense of ability that the computer has power over us and can rewire our brains. By using metaphors, similes, and personification, he enhances his writing more profoundly.  

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