How the Internet Can Hurt Your Freelance Writing Career

by John Soares on December 10, 2014

As a freelance writer and a human being, productivity and happiness are top priorities for me, and I was already aware of the negative effects of the Internet on my own cognitive processes and ability to feel fully alive when I read The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains in the summer of 2010.

internet-data-overload

But The Shallows crystallized my thinking and convinced me to spend a lot less time “plugged in.”

Nicholas Carr's The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our BrainsNicholas Carr’s book, a 2010 New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, details the many scientific studies that show how the near constant bombardment of our brains by information from electronic media is literally changing the structure of our brains and altering our lives – and not for the better.

As a freelance writer for higher education companies, I need to concentrate for long periods of time. But it’s gotten harder over the last decade, harder at the same time I spend more of my life on the Internet for work projects and for what I’ve chosen to do online, like write this blog and my other blogs, have an active Twitter account, interact with friends on Facebook, read the news, follow a few stocks… the list goes on and on.

I often compare myself over the last few years with how I was in graduate school getting my master’s in polisci from 1987-1989. Granted I was younger then and highly motivated to succeed, but I was able to concentrate so much better 25 years ago than I can now.

A Question for You

If you remember a time before the Internet and smartphones, compare your ability to concentrate then with how well you concentrate now.

Well? Read on…

Key Points for Freelance Writers… And Everyone Else

These are excerpts from the notes I took on the book. I use the term Web broadly. It includes anything that connects you electronically to remote sources of information or stimulation, primarily the Internet itself and cell phone technology, whether it’s a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone. I use “we” and “us” primarily to refer to people who spend too much time on the Web and don’t focus on what they specifically need to get from it before getting off as quickly as possible.

1. When we are on the Web, we keep searching for new information to entertain us, to stimulate us – we keep clicking links and watching and listening. We set up e-mail alerts and obsessively check social media and other sites frequently, wanting to get that interesting tidbit as soon as possible. Often this becomes addictive behavior.

2. Using the Web decreases our ability to concentrate deeply for long periods of time. It instead trains us to want new stimuli all the time, making it difficult to focus for more than a few minutes. This is “the shallows.”

3. Web time decreases our ability to think deeply about an idea or a concept. Our brains can’t concentrate for more than a few minutes.

4. The Web physically alters our brain structure, affecting areas that deal with cognitive thinking and long-term memory storage. We can’t think as deeply, and we can’t remember very well what we were thinking about anyway.

5. The more time we spend on the Web, the more we train our brains to deal with information quickly and with little or no attention to wider connections. The result is that very little of this information makes it out of our “working memory” and into our long-term memory.

6. High levels of Web time decreases our ability to empathize with other people. Our connections with our friends and love ones weaken, and we miss out on a crucial emotion that binds us together and makes us human.

7. Computers and the Internet allow us to perform certain cognitive functions far more efficiently, but we make a Faustian bargain for those gains, and most people are not aware of exactly what they are trading away.

Conclusions

Nicholas Carr is a freelance writer like I am, and like many of you are. Freelance writers mostly work alone and can much more easily disconnect from the Internet, or cut connection time way back. Other people have jobs or lives that require them to be more connected.

Even so, no matter who you are, I hope you’ll examine how you use the Internet, and smartphones, and tablet computers, and all the other forms of technology that encourage your brain to be in a “shallow” state.

And I hope that you’ll discuss these ideas with your loved ones, particularly your kids and grandkids – they are the ones who really need to be at the top of their game if they are to deal effectively with the many challenges the future holds.

And think about what life truly means for you. Does your time on the Web make you feel more alive? Or less?

Read The Shallows – and give it your full attention.

Your Take

Thoughts? Suggestions? Please share them in the comments below…

Freelance writers who specialize make much more money than those who don't. My short and focused course Find Your Freelance Writing Niches: Make More Money for Less Work guides you through all the key steps you need to take to discover the specialties that will take your freelance writing income to a much higher level. Click here for all the details.

{ 26 comments… CLICK HERE to add one }

How to Coauthor a Book

Thumbnail image for How to Coauthor a Book November 18, 2014

Collaborating with a coauthor on a book or other writing project is often an excellent idea; however, it can also lead to major problems. I’ll examine the benefits of coauthoring first before moving on to point out the potential perils. 3 Reasons Why You Should Coauthor The Coauthor Has Expertise or Knowledge You Don’t This is […]

8 comments CLICK HERE to read the full article

Time Management and Productivity Twitter Hashtags

November 12, 2014

Effective time management and high productivity are very important to me and most readers here at Productive Writers. That’s why I put together this list of the most important relevant hashtags for Twitter and Google+. You can use these hashtags for your own tweets and Google+ shares, or you can use them to search those […]

7 comments CLICK HERE to read the full article

The Top 27 Ways to Boost Your Writing Willpower

October 29, 2014

How strong is your willpower? Do you do what you should, when you should, whether you feel like it or not — whether it’s for your writing or any other task large or small in your life? Do you have strong self-control? Perhaps the most important factor that determines whether or not you are a […]

19 comments CLICK HERE to read the full article

Sleep Deprivation Hurts Your Writing Productivity and Your Health

October 14, 2014

I’ve frequently stressed the importance of good health to your career as a productive freelance writer. Sleep is especially crucial, not only to your ability to concentrate on your writing projects, but also so you have enough energy to get them done on time. I wrote an extensive post about how lack of adequate sleep […]

19 comments CLICK HERE to read the full article

Does a Freelance Writer Need a Post Office Box?

September 29, 2014

Why would a freelance writer or any other home-based worker want a post office box? Well, as a freelancer who has a home address and can easily get home delivery, I’ve chosen to have all my mail go to my post office box. Here’s why… The Advantages of a Post Office Box #1, If You Rent If you’re […]

10 comments CLICK HERE to read the full article

Why I Don’t Have a Smartphone

September 15, 2014

I spend a lot of time on the computer completing my freelance writing projects, and I also spend significant time on the Internet dealing with my multiple blogs, promoting my services on LinkedIn, and networking with other writers and entrepreneurial types on Twitter, Google Plus, forums, and other blogs. But when I’m not on my computer, I […]

46 comments CLICK HERE to read the full article

When and How a Freelance Writer Should Hire Help

September 2, 2014

When you become successful enough as a freelance writer, you’ll need to consider when and how to hire people so that you can become even more successful and make even more money. When Should You Hire Help? Here’s the simple Hiring-Outside-Help Maxim: Assuming you can get as much work as you want at your preferred hourly […]

12 comments CLICK HERE to read the full article

Watch Me Take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge!

August 25, 2014

ALS is a very serious and debilitating disease that leads to loss of motor-nerve function and frequently results in death. Unfortunately, Steve Bachman, one of my childhood friends, has ALS. Steve is an intelligent and brave man who openly discusses ALS on his excellent blog. My Challenge to You As I mention in the video, […]

5 comments CLICK HERE to read the full article

The Science and Psychology of Why You Procrastinate

August 12, 2014

Do you know the science and psychology of why you procrastinate?  Hey, we all do it. The goal, though, is to do it less and less so we can become more and more successful as freelance writers or whatever it is we do for a living. I’ve laid out 50 ways you can overcome procrastination […]

12 comments CLICK HERE to read the full article
Google