Throughout high school and college, my mother always jokingly told me, “I would have been a straight-A student if I only had Google at my hands when I was your age.” And it is not uncommon to hear her generation tell those my age, “What would you all do without theinternetat your fingertips?” We hear the phrase, “We are living in a globalized world,” over and over again.
Everything is available to you via your Google Chrome or Safari browser. You can see your friend’s resumes via LinkedIn, their photographs via Instagram, and their political opinions via Twitter. As a rising college senior with many friends who just graduated and relocated from New York to Singapore, I can contact my friends at all times. It does not matter if they are 10 miles away from me or hundreds of miles away from me.
This is just scratching the surface. You can look up anything via an easy google search. For example, today I learned exactly what legal rights a 501 C 3 nonprofit organization has via a quick Google search. There is information, while maybe not accurate, available to us in mass amounts viaTik Tok. And if you are lucky enough like me to go to a tier-one research institution, you have access to mass scholarly databases.
However, what is the effect of having everything at our fingertips? Have we lost anything because of our constant instant access to the internet? Firstly, the grey matter in our brains actually reduces with constant use of the internet. According to astudy by World Psychiatryafter participants played a video game for six weeks, there was a reduction in their grey matter, which controls impulses and decision making. The study does not compare this use to being on your phone all day. A question of what occurs to your brain when you are, for example, scrolling on Instagram all day still continues to be one that needs to be asked.
Having constant access to information also affects our memory, something that researchers have named the “google effect.” Thegoogle effectis essentially people not being to recall facts, due to their dependence on the internet. The internet has caused us to store less information in our brains because subconsciously, we know it is available at the click of a button.
However,Gen Zhas lived in a world where the internet has always existed. The older members of the generation, including myself, can remember a world in which not everything was at our fingertips. Where there was no online streaming, smartphones, or extremely refined search engines.
The first generation that will live in the world of high-speed internet is the youngest generation, known as Generation Alpha. These children were born beginning in 2010 and this generation will continue until 2025. They were born the same year as the iPad was launched, which marked the beginning of the internet as we know it today. After this came Instagram, which overtook Myspace, Twitter, and Tiktok, which would later become a dominant platform. These children are those we refer to as “iPad kids.” They have not lived in a world where they have to sit in boredom with their own thoughts.
I find myself lucky I got to be part of the last generation that was in many ways forced to play outside or that I was able to garner my love for avid reading. Instead of an iPad kid, I was a book kid. That’s how I stayed entertained as a child because that was much more riveting than my pink flip phone. However, that no longer holds true. I would rather scroll for hours most of the time than crack open a book, especially after a long day, because scrolling is mindless. I am very much aware that picking up my phone or seeing likes pop up on my feed releases dopamine into my brain, also known as the pleasure chemical. That also means I have accepted my addiction to my iPhone as part of my life.
Having everything at our fingertips can be extremely impactful in a positive. How else would I have to know what a 501 3 9(c) a is exactly without asking an attorney? I wouldn’t have been able to write a 25-page paper on a very niche topic for my research seminar this last semester.
However, I do wonder how having everything at our fingertips changes our brains in the long run. How will it affect our memories? Will Generation Alpha have less grey matter than I do? Will their memory be “weaker?” Is my memory weaker than that of Baby Boomers or my mother’s own Generation X? Only time will tell.
For now, all we can do is trust evolution and hope it will take care of our bodies as they undergo the advances of the internet.