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4 Ways the Web Rewires Us

BY RELEVANT ISSUE 60 / LIFE October 17, 2012

The Internet has forever altered everything, from the way we communicate to the way we date to the way we shop. But one less-discussed effect of the Internet is how it might be changing us. Although it will be a while before the full scope of the web’s impact on our consciousness will be realized, here are four ways the online revolution has already changed your brain.

We Only Talk to People We Agree With

Think of the Internet as a collection of millions of different coffeeshops, each with a sign on the door about what kind of people you can expect to find inside. You’re not going to darken the doorway of one that doesn’t suit your tastes (at least, not for longer than it takes to shout your disapproval). The Internet has crafted a world for us in which our interest groups are increasingly polarized.

We Ignore More Than Half of the World

All this “we” talk is a bit misleading, since only 44 percent of the world is even online. For all its lauded “worldwide-ness,” the Information Age has yet to hit the majority of humanity—which means all these changes to the way we think are actually siloing us off from a huge chunk of the world.

We Like to be Negative

It’s no surprise to anyone who’s ever logged into Facebook, but researchers have proven it: When people like the product, they keep their happiness to themselves. When they don’t like it, they complain. When it comes to the Internet, then, open forums and crowdsourced reviews bring out the worst in us.

We Believe False Information More Easily

The printing press taught the brain to read left to right, top to bottom. But what’s become more natural for us now is skimming. Faced with a constant flood of information­, we jump to the headlines, the bold words and the bullet points in what we read. It’s a survival tool, sure. But it also means we rarely take the time to see if the facts line up. The Internet has made us more gullible.

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