Today’s posting follows on from yesterday’s thoughts on shallow thinking and the effect technology is having on our minds and brains. The first part of this post is clipped from Our Cluttered Minds (via NY Times – http://nyti.ms/dnGo1t), By Jonah Lehrer, Published: May 27, 2010: it is, in essence, a review of Nicholas Carr’s book: The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.
Secondly, I found an interesting quote from Jim Taylor, Ph.D., an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco (http://bit.ly/9Sg1Ti) and although the quote is referring to ‘Popular Culture’, I believe the advice can be broadly applied to the topic of Internet usage.
In the final part of the post I’ve found some useful quotes from Dr. Kern, a leading behavioural addiction specialist; listening to his advice via the link offers a range of practical solutions.
NY Times Article – Our Cluttered Minds
Socrates started what may have been the first technology scare. In the “Phaedrus,” he lamented the invention of books, which “create forgetfulness” in the soul.
In the 17th century, Robert Burton complained, in “The Anatomy of Melancholy,” of the “vast chaos and confusion of books” that make the eyes and fingers ache.
By 1890, the problem was the speed of transmission: one eminent physician blamed “the pelting of telegrams” for triggering an
outbreak of mental illness. And then came radio and television, which poisoned the mind with passive pleasure.
In “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” the technology writer Nicholas Carr extends this anxiety to the 21st century.
Carr argues that we are sabotaging ourselves, trading away the seriousness of sustained attention for the frantic superficiality of the Internet.
“Once I was a scuba diver in a sea of words, now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”
This is a measured manifesto. Even as Carr bemoans his vanishing attention span, he’s careful to note the usefulness of the Internet, which provides us with access to a near infinitude of information. We might be consigned to the intellectual shallows, but these shallows are as wide as a vast ocean.
Carr insists that the negative side effects of the Internet outweigh its efficiencies.
Consider, for instance, the search engine, which Carr believes has fragmented our knowledge.
“We don’t see the forest when we search the Web, we don’t even see the trees. We see twigs and leaves.”
Why is it that in a world in which everything is available we all end up reading the same thing?
…he’s horrified by the way computers are destroying our powers of concentration.
And so we lurch from site to site, if only because we constantly crave the fleeting pleasure of new information. But this isn’t really the fault of the Internet. The online world has merely exposed the feebleness of human attention, which is so weak that even the most minor temptations are all but impossible to resist.
He argues that our mental malleability has turned us into servants of technology, our circuits reprogrammed by our gadgets.
The incessant noise of the Internet, Carr concludes, has turned the difficult text into an obsolete relic.
Psychology Today Article – Popular Culture: Too Much Time On Our Hands. What is with our obsession with celebrities? Published on September 9, 2009 by Jim Taylor, Ph.D., an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco.
So what do we do? I think it’s safe to say that our culture isn’t going to help us to make changes. Ultimately, our culture doesn’t care about us, only about making money and accumulating power. Instead, it is up to each of us individually to decide that a different road is necessary if we wish to find what we seek.
We must start by regaining perspective on the role that popular culture plays in our lives. Our worship of popular culture has caused many in America to search for meaning and connectedness in all the wrong places. The only place to find real meaning is by immersing ourselves in our own lives and the people and activities that actually mean something to us, rather than turning to the contrived-and ultimately unsatisfying-meaning that popular culture tries to sell us. We need to rediscover connectedness with real people instead of accepting the virtual connections that are readily available with modern technology. But for this to happen, we must first admit how truly unimportant popular culture is, reject its allure, and recommit our time and energy to the search for real meaning and connectedness.
My personal opinion is not quite as dramatic as Jim’s final sentences and I would suggest methods in developing a health balance of virtual and face to face communication.
Yesterday I was also reading and listening to Dr. Kern’s (http://bit.ly/aCOVkN) take on Behavioural Addictions using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and what I particular found interesting was the idea of harm reduction and not abstinence. The link above leads to a series of short video’s, I can highly recommend taking the time to listen to Dr Kern inspiring answers.
To conclude: in my view, it is essential we begin developing guidelines for Internet usage that can be segmented for different parts of society; start with Kindergarden age and working through school, college, university, work and leisure groups. As is often read, but perhaps not fully understood, a balanced lifestyle is one key to health and happiness ~ Dr. Kern. This, for me, underlines the overall principle on this topic.