Today many of us seem to have integrated our lives with the internet. And for many it’s about providing greater productivity. Whether it’s using email, Googling things, finding a mate or just checking sports results we can’t seem to be without it. Many hobbies and interests now also utilise the incredible power of the web to enhance the experience or just to enable things to happen. Incidentally, there was a suggestion on a recent TV programme that the coming of the railways in the 19th century had a bigger impact on life than the World Wide Web has in our time. I’m not sure that I agree with that, but it would be an interesting topic to debate.
The benefits of the internet seem so huge that it is difficult to see the downsides. As someone who is so dependent on the net for so much that I do both in and out of work I see it as a quite brilliant productivity tool.
So I was interested to read just before Christmas of a new piece of research – for obvious reasons I’m always interested in research – about the impact of the internet.
In a US study by Michigan State University, researchers found that the impact on students who were surfing the internet in class resulted in them getting lower marks. This was true even for the best students. It seems that checking social media, email and the like resulted in a quantifiable negative impact on their learning. Just for the record they were spending an average of 37 minutes of each 110 minute class (i.e. 34% of the class time) using the internet for non-academic purposes.
Now think about it… this is the impact on people who have grown up with the internet. This is what it does to smart, internet-savvy university students. So imagine what is happening in the workplace every day with people who are still figuring out just how to make best use of the internet. One of the hot topics over recent months has been the need to improve productivity for UK plc.
So, whilst the internet undoubtedly has its benefits, we should be mindful of its other potential impacts too.