The first ‘A’ for an essay in English

I still can’t quite believe that my essay could get A, when all along I’ve been almost failing through my JC general paper and never really done well in English. This is probably my first time. It’s titled “The Internet and Critical Thinking”.

The Internet may be heavily adorned with seductive distractions that mislead, but the assertion of us becoming scattered and superficial thinkers as a result may be too much an overstatement. This is the decade of information revolution. The Internet is unquestionably over-saturated, with users distracted from time to time. American writer Nicholas Carr believes “We’re turning into shallow thinkers”. But to harness the best out of this technology may in fact demand criticality and judiciousness, so we should not be too impatient to lay our judgement as exceptions do exist.

Two thousand years ago Roman philosopher Seneca said “To be everywhere is to be nowhere”, revealing our long history of multi-tasking prior to the Internet. It is innate for humans to be “interrupt-driven“, says award-winning author Maggie Jackson, which allows us to react and adapt to changes to attain our goals. We have been scattered thinkers since the time man has to defend against predators while hunting. Even the housewife has to constantly juggle the chores of what to cook and when to do the laundry. The Internet is just another avenue in which we could become scattered, but definitely not the sole propagator.

This brings us to the frenetic culture caused by the Internet. Some complain about users becoming superficial decision-makers due to haste, others concerned about spoonfed but often unreliable information. However, we could look from a different perspective. The Internet is a thought generator; The rapidness of information transfer facilitates the culture of sharing. As HR futurist Rick Von Feldt, partner of Future Workplace puts it, the next decade sees a collaborative revolution. Consider reading the comments below a particular blog entry and you might just gain multiple viewpoints about an issue. Put your work on a design forum and be amazed at how much you can improve via critiques. Some may seem frivolous, but it is the accumulation of all input that defeats superficiality. Knowledge sharing rarely results in shallow-mindedness. Rather, the Internet consolidates every knowledge, eventually sharpening our minds about matters.

While plentiful knowledge benefits us, we should embrace the fact that the Internet distracts. Several studies have shown that Facebook is costing workplace productivity. But we need to also embrace the fact that distraction does not equate ignorance and shallow-mindedness. Social networking sites may be a source of distraction that leads to scattered thinking, but consider those who multi-task and manage time well, treating Facebook like a short coffee break. Consider users who actively filter unwanted information while researching online. Consider seekers who use web feeds like RSS to manage incoming information. These users tend to be sharper than the average user who relies on books that are limited to what is within its cover.

Hence, the accusation of us losing focus and becoming superficial in thinking may not always hold true. Exceptions exist, especially for the disciplined. The Internet is here to stay, and we should be finding ways to harness its strength in promoting critical thinking.


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