The Internet Turns Us Idle

The main focus behind this article is to find the answer to whether or not current generations are becoming lazy, with regards to their education, because of the access to information online. In this ‘New Generation of Education’, most students have access to internet and millions of online sources majority of the time and so it is without doubt that many students use the internet to find information for their assignments, but to what extent and at what cost to this generation?

Are books a dying breed? Is the internet eating away at our intelligence and motivation? These are all questions that need answering. Many people, especially our current generation of students, are moving away from good, old fashioned books and are opting instead for internet sources to do their assignments. After conducting some interviews, I discovered that students have a huge reliance on google scholar, which is based online and provides students with an easy way to search for scholarly literature. In just one place online, you can access thousands of sources such as journal articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, which are uploaded by academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other websites.

“Google Scholar is my go to for most of my academic research, it can even automatically site a source for me with one click of a button” said Georgina du Toit, a first-year Rhodes student. Google alone has millions of sources that provide information that is easy to understand.

Other sites frequently used by students include wikipedia and spark notes. However, the information from the internet is not always true, wikipedia is especially unreliable, and so it is highly possible that a lot of youth are being misinformed and backing up their research with incorrect research.

Daniel Koeslag, a Rhodes University student mentioned what he does when he can’t find the right academic sources on Google Scholar, “Sometimes when I can’t find the information I am looking for on Google Scholar, I turn to Wikipedia for answers and then when I use that information I just site a source from Google Scholar that has a similar context”.

This is just one of the examples that can point to how the access to information online is turning current generations lazy. Koeslag was not the first student I came across that would turn to other non-academic websites when they could not find the right information on Google Scholar. Instead of looking for a book in the library for more information, students are turning to less reliable sources online for their research assignments, and this could result in poor marks due to the inaccuracy of their research. Are people just too lazy to go check out books at libraries anymore?

Studies show a direct correlation between student success and library programs but despite this many libraries have been facing multiple budget cuts in the last few years. After distributing some surveys around the Rhodes University Campus, 10 of which went to students where as 5 went to adult employees, I discovered some intriguing information. Out of the 10 surveys which were filled in by students, only 2 of the students had ever checked out a book from a library for research purposes. Out of the 5 surveys which were filled in by adults, all five surveys revealed that each adult had checked out a book from the library before for research purposes. This gives an idea about the difference between current generations and older generations. Older generations had more reliance on hard copy books for research whereas current generations have more of a reliance on online sources.

All 10 surveys from students revealed that none of them believed that they would be able to do a research assignment without the help of the internet, mostly because they “would not be able to find enough information in hard copy books” and “It would take too long to find all the information they needed in library books”. However, the results from the 5 surveys done by adults revealed that all 5 adults stated that they would be able to do a full research assignment without internet because, according to their survey’s, that’s how they did research assignments when they were in school, there was no internet then.

According to Nicholas Carr (2010) current generations dependence on the internet has a ‘dark side’. He states that scientific evidence is pointing to the idea that the internet is turning current generations into “superficial thinkers” and that the internet is filled with constant interruptions and distractions.

The surveys also revealed that majority of youth struggle to go even one day without using the internet, whether its through a computer, cellphone, etc. According to their feedback, they find it difficult because they feel disconnected from the world, almost left out in a sense. Therefore, internet is not only resulting in the use of fewer books but also in the lack of face-to-face communication. The internet does not encourage intelligent discussion.

“As a society, our critical thinking as a generation is declining in comparison to that of past generations. With the internet, readily available to almost everyone, we can easily find solutions to questions online and take information that the internet supplies rather than analyzing topics and critically thinking on our own” (Weyers, B. 2013).

The youth are not the only ones to blame for their reliance on the internet. Many schools are a contributing factor to this situation. In the past few years more and more schools and other educational institutions have started implemented iPads instead of textbooks. This is encouraging students to rely on the internet from a very young age and could possibly have a negative impact on their cognitive capabilities in the future as the internet is filled with distractions and is filled with false information.

Current generations have become so reliant on online sources, they are not that bothered that this reliance effects our ability to be critical thinkers whereas real books could encourage our minds to think clearly as we are able to focus more for there are not as many distractions. Unfortunately, current generations prefer using the internet for research as it is easier to find information that way and most of the information is easier to understand, although it might not always be reliable information. Many students would rather hand in an assignment with some unreliable sources and loose a few percentages off their mark than checking a book out of the library to find more accurate information.


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