Something like a Neil Postman book, and this book also reference Postman a few times, this book tries to answer the question what exactly are the ways in which the use of the internet affects our brains? The approach to this is through biology and neuroscience and history, and using the author’s own personal story not to explain the answer, but to model the type of user he is and to provide a kind of narrative history of what this question looks like on the personal level. It’s not a meditative look at the question, and his experiences with the internet, feels more or less average of a certain kind of user, and more specifically at a certain kind of moment in the history of the last 30 years.
The book is not necessarily out of date already, but there is a heavy emphasis on laptops and wifi being the primary conduit through which we experience the internet primarily now. And at the time, this was most likely true. To help combat against this kind of obsolescence in his writing, he spends a lot time reading Marshall McLuhan, as a kind of reminder that the content matters a lot less than the delivery mechanism. So while that limits his book, it helps to provide a framework to take his analysis and look at how the differing current technologies — specifically phones, and even more specifically specific content and social media apps on phones — have further shifted how and what we know.
So what’s his argument? In general that there’s been a significant lessening of the certain kind of deep reading that one gets from books. Look, I know! But this isn’t a polemic against the internet or something decrying the loss of books. Instead, it’s an attempt to account for the facts of what changes have occurred, and very much to his credit, what is gained and what is lost through these changes. So while it does mean that fewer people are experiencing that kind of reading, it’s mostly a matter of a shifting landscape. And certain some people are reacting to this, by being even more into books. He also suggests that it’s certainly not a matter of reading less, but of reading differently. Scanning pages for information in different ways, reading with an air of multiplicity — always considering multiple texts and sources at the same time, and knowing less about a lot more. One thing that he also says that I think is correct is that it means that a lot of independent and creative thought is being replaced by kinds of social scripts. Well, that feels very correct to me. Think about when a common topic is brought up: how much of the discourse about that topic feels like a repetition of the same previous discourses. Well with the internet of course, that becomes more and more multiplied by the huge numbers of users.