Is smart technology making us less intelligent?

“[The English language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts… if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

George Orwell

If you have stuck around after a sentence with complex structure and multisyllabic words, congratulations. To those who never read this because those things scare you, you could be part of the problem.

Maybe I’ve piqued your interest — if so, I’m glad you’ve fought the now all-too-common urge to skim or even skip hard reading in favor of the quick bites of casual language we now tend to consume. The increased use of informal language is a major trend in society (specifically younger generations), traced back to the looming giant of technology.

Can you even imagine a life without a phone in your back pocket? I mean, what would you do if you’re sitting at a red light, or a doctor’s office, or at lunch, and you couldn’t scroll through Tik Tok, read a handful of Twitter posts, or type a quick abbreviated text. The boredom might kill you.

Modern society has grown accustomed to an instant gratification, consumerism lifestyle. The lives we lead are now filled with more media and “knowledge” than ever before. We have the world at our fingertips, literally. We could research any subject, learn from any philosopher, or study anything we wanted. With this wealth of knowledge facing us, still we opt for fifteen seconds of cheap entertainment, numbing our minds to complex thought. The average high school student constructs sentences with less complex syntax, elaborate diction, and creativity than previous generations.

Is our constant consumption of slang, fragmented sentences, and quick sound bytes online paired with the gradual loss of syntax, diction, and sophistication in normal speech rewiring our brains?

Some of the effects of these trends translate from written form into verbal speech patterns. Text abbreviations litter our digital messages, and creep into our speech. Slang and other forms of informal language litter everyday conversations — for example, you may hear “lol” or “jk” spoken by a friend.

This change underlies a potentially dangerous change in society: informal language is actually making us less intelligent. The loss of formal speech patterns could be detrimental in society.

In truth, causal speech is often helpful — when conversing with friends, we can interact more relationally by mimicking the patterns of those around us. This is actually an important relational tool, and cannot be dismissed. 

The issue occurs when we can no longer easily code-switch into the formal language needed to communicate with everyone else. Just imagine the fear that would arise if I told you to write an English essay or call your boss. It takes complex language skills to convey information fluently. These skills are also required to communicate and understand abstract concepts — to comprehend sophisticated syntax and diverse words. The amount of energy and stress that must be exerted to do so is significantly larger than in the past. 

These language patterns show a fascinating trend. Our increased dependence on technology — smartphones, Google, and all that accompanies it — makes us less inclined to expand our minds. 

The brain is fascinatingly complex and can process an incredible amount of information. It naturally wants to learn, and as a result, it makes numerous neural connections daily due to its plasticity. This means that when you do an action, it will be easier the second and third times, and so on. So when you speak and learn in an informal way, it becomes challenging to break that habit. We become complacent and simply consume information, rather than pondering, understanding, or expanding on it.

Society’s instant gratification, consumerism mindset impedes growth. It stunts problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and creativity. The decline of intellectual thought at the hands of the inventions meant to make us smarter could lead to the downfall of this generation.


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