The Conversation: Is the Internet Rotting Your Brain?

Author Nicholas Carr on how the web is changing the wiring of today's minds.

ByABC News
June 2, 2010, 9:36 AM

June 2, 2010— -- Many Americans now live their lives out on the web, in a swirl of e-mails, photos, Facebook updates, articles, videos and other bits of digital news. Ten years ago, 44 percent of Americans used the Internet. Today, three-quarters of them do, according to the World Bank.

The Internet has opened wide the information tap, giving broader access to data than ever before. Browsing has joined channel surfing as a national obsession.

But that, writes author Nicholas Carr in articles and in an old-fashioned book, is rewiring the very nature of our brains -- for the worse.

In "The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains," Carr argues that minds trained to browse lose the ability to focus.

Carr shows how browsing, which exercises parts of our brains not used in offline reading, changes the way we think. While a printed book forces readers to home in on one subject, the Internet scatters our attention. As we skim and jump from article to article, Carr says we lose the ability to think deeply.

What are the potential consequences of that loss? Is there any upside to the skimming skills we gain through web browsing? Carr spoke to ABC's John Berman about those questions -- and more -- in today's Conversation.