1-Sentence-Summary: The Shallows explores the effects of the Internet on the human brain, which aren’t entirely positive, as our constant exposure to the online environment through digital devices strips our ability to target our focus and stay concentrated, all while modifying our brain neurologically and anatomically.
Read in: 4 minutes
Favorite quote from the author:
The brain is a phenomenal organ, allowing us to carry out day-to-day operations and perform special cognitive functions. An outstanding factor related to the brain is that it changes its neurological and anatomic composition throughout time. Nowadays, though, the Internet started to play a crucial role.
With ongoing technological advancements, people rely more and more on the Internet in their daily lives. The Shallows explores the detrimental effects of being exposed to the virtual world and how it physically affects our brain. It also talks about its effect of it at a neurological level.
Among many valuable insights, the book offers a series of valuable lessons. Here are my three favorite ones from the book:
- The Internet is altering our brain’s ability to stay focused.
- The Internet makes us process vast amounts of information, which causes burnout.
- Allow yourself time away from the Internet by spending time in nature.
Ready to explore these lessons in detail with me? If so, let’s start with the first one!
Lesson 1: Your ability to concentrate and stay focused diminishes as you use the Internet
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you try to focus on a sure thing, maybe while reading or studying, but can’t stay focused for more than two minutes? If so, chances are your brain is affected by the Internet. Are you confused? Let me break it down in simple terms!
The use of the Internet makes our brain learn superficially, get easily distracted, and overall not function on a deeper level. Since our brain is plastic, it falls for these shortcuts. Our Brain becomes addicted to the repetitive and interactive features of the virtual world. After all, every stimulus is just a click away, so why shouldn’t we access them?
Essentially, the constant exposure to the Internet and its nocive effects on the brain will make it crave more and more stimulation, increasing the need for processing information such as emails, notifications, news, and whatnot.
Hence, the attention span reduces significantly and the ability to stay focused for a prolonged time decreases, and with it, so does our happiness. Why is that? Because we can’t live in the present and appreciate the level of excitement a given moment has since we always feel the need for more intensity.
Lesson 2: Spending too much time online can lead to burnout and tiredness
Whenever we go online, the Internet presents us with a desirable place that keeps us hooked for minutes, if not hours at once. This space is tailored to our needs and wants, so why would you want to get out of it, right? Well, allow me to tell you why. If you feel that something is off with you and feel tired all the time, this may be the case.
Studies show that we are presented with more bits of information in a week than our ancestors had to deal with in their entire lifetime. Imagine how much cognitive power that must take to process. However, we are not programmed to consume that much information, so as a result, we feel burnout and exhausted.
To help yourself get out of this situation, you must interrupt the constant supply of digital news, notifications, or any online stimulus. It will help your brain get a break from all the data it has to process, but it will give you more time to rest mentally.
It is beneficial for the brain to be away from virtual toxicity- getting bored, and being alone. The brain needs some time to rest and reset.
Lesson 3: The remedy? Unstructured time spent in nature
A brain that’s overwhelmed with information and is constantly exposed to new sources of distress can only take you so far. An overwhelmed mind will most likely feel tired all the time. The remedy? Going back to your roots, or spending more time in nature. Allowing yourself to elope in the natural world and spend some time disconnected from the Internet will cure your burnout.
Although you’re not always online, the triggers are always present, and your brain is always alert for them. You’re ready to consume that fresh stimulus whenever a notification or a new message pops up. But you’re waiting for a new one, and this process goes on and on.
In other words, your mind is always active, never truly resting and letting go of this state. As such, science says that physically removing it from the source of distress and moving your body in nature will improve your mood, memory, and happiness level.
Researchers and philosophers worldwide have advocated for this natural remedy for as long as we can recall, and for a reason! Brief interactions with nature, such as taking a walk, can significantly improve your memory and focus, shows a study conducted by neuroscientist John Jonide. So how to integrate more time in nature into your schedule? Pick a hobby such as hiking, doing picnics on the grass, or walking around in the forest.
The Shallows Review
The Shallows delves into the controversial subject of the Internet and its detrimental effects on our physical and mental health. While we live our lives on the web, our brain is changing its neurological structure for the worse, leaving us stressed, anxious, tired, and without the ability to focus and retain information. The book highlights the toxic environment that the Internet provides for us and explores the remedies and ways out of the virtual hook.
Who would I recommend The Shallows summary to?
The 20-year-old person addicted to their cellphone is looking for ways to ditch their social media addiction. This is for the 30-year-old concerned parent who wants to take charge of their children’s time spent online. Lastly, the 40-year-old psychologist or neuroscientist is interested in the effects of the Internet on the human brain.