Digital dementia is very real. Many of my students who are overly dependent on the internet are incapable of understanding complex concepts. Their academic writing skills not only display a poor command of language, but also a lack of critical reflection, being able to establish coherent causal and conditional relationships and to specify details. The internet conditions us to take in information in small chunks; we remember where to find things but we do not remember what they were. In a nutshell, we externalize our knowledge construction. This impairs working memory as well as executive functions. Digital dementia is also reinforced by non-digital factors such as traditional school systems that rely on rote learning, so there are cultural factors to be taken into consideration too.
Notice that our list of good reasons to use an overlay does not include ‘so we won’t have to set up a new page template’. (If setting up a new page is so difficult that you find yourself sticking content into overlays, perhaps it’s time to reconsider your website platform.) Recruiting user-research participants is also not included. As much as we value user research, the number of sites bombarding incoming visitors with survey invitations is reaching near-epidemic proportions. Surely there are less intrusive ways to collect user feedback.