A Harvard researcher’s blog says he’s seeing a curious change among Web-savvy college students in his classes. Instead of delving into the Internet for its own sake, these students use the Web to further their offline adventures. They make chapbooks (and probably zines), engage in knitting and other crafts, and use the Web as a route to offline activities.
In 2008, I made a conscious decision to use the Web strategically. As I spent more time on social media, I found I was losing the sense of creativity that physical activity brings me.
Before 2004, I had physically active jobs. Now, my main commitment after work is to a full schedule of dance classes. I believe active jobs and classes can keep one’s ability to innovate alive.
Intriguing studies hint at the positive value of doodling, which implies that writing by hand may activate different parts of the brain than typing does. The written word doesn’t equal the typed word.
When we spend too much time behind a flat screen, we may lose the ability to solve some kinds of problems. A study of three-dimensional problem solving showed that computer-aided drafting classes didn’t improve community college students’ ability to visualize solutions. The authors recommended bringing three-dimensional demonstrations into the classroom.
Environmentally speaking, time online removes us from the ecosystems that surround us; cell phone apps that simulate global warming don’t solve that problem. It also cuts down our time spent learning basic skills like gardening and cooking.
Internet use also affects our communication and may make it easy to avoid – or categorize and dismiss – unwelcome perspectives. It can create an atmosphere where each of our artistic products are automatically in public space. This may inhibit creativity.
On the other hand, browsing on Stumbleupon helps me synthesize ideas for blog posts like this one. Internet use may make it harder for us to focus and tap into our creative sides, but it also makes it easier for us to create mental categories and mashups in which we file others’ ideas.
Ideally, I’d like to see more people understand that life doesn’t have to revolve around the Web. The online world is an adjunct to the offline one. Active learning, conversation, creativity, problem solving and conflict resolution often live offline. To reduce socially polarized conversations, access innovation, and learn and maintain survival and problem solving skills, sometimes it’s best to unplug ourselves from the digital world for a while.