Is the Internet making us stupid? That’s the question du jour. The Swallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, a brand new book by Nick Carr that has been getting a lot of buzz, answers this question with a resounding “Heck, yeah!”
Naturally, everyone from The Wall Street Journal to Tech Crunch has taken to the Internet to respond to the book, either to pooh-pooh Carr’s claims or to provide a round of applause. Never mind the irony that the very media source in question is the stomping ground for this very debate. In fact, never mind the debate at all. It’s a tired and worn out song and dance used since the early days of television. Video games, rock and roll and junk food have all undergone the same scrutiny. Carr’s no dummy; he needs to sell books, so this topic is going to get a lot of coverage in an era where whining about the web is the chic thing to do. Sure, he’s got a valid argument: Endless hours spent on the Internet is going to turn your brain to Jell-O, but so are hours of UFC championships or Flavor of Love marathons. In short, it’s not the Internet itself that will make you stupid, it’s the content you take in, regardless of your favorite form of media.
While we cannot change what happens online, what can we can change about the Internet is the quality and content. With smarter content and less spam, we won’t feel like our brains are getting shoved into a microwave. Luckily, this is something we as marketers and businesses have control over. It is the socially responsible thing to do to use the Internet as marketers in creative, intelligent and thoughtful ways. It is time to make the new media game interesting again. And it’s happening slowly. Real journalists and actual writers are contributing to online publications. The written word online is no longer an exclusive birthright to heavyset jobless dudes in bathrobes. Great filmmakers are making exclusive web-only films. Small businesses are finding ways to brand online by using ingenious techniques. In short, the Internet is only as stupid as we make it.