I thought of entitling this blog, “A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep.” I read a very insightful book about a month ago and have been wanting to write about it since that time but with the fullness of the semester have just not found the time. The book is called, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr. The basic premise of his book is an extension of Marshall McLuhan’s now famous quote, “The medium is the message.” Christians have rightfully always been discerning of how new inventions might be used for positive and negative purposes and content, but the point here is that no tools [and maybe particularly tools that we use for self-expression, for shaping personal and public identity, and cultivating relations with others] are entirely neutral. I would like to write a longer article about this subject some day but for now I will post a few quotes from the book for your contemplation.
The shift from paper to screen doesn’t just change the way we navigate a piece of writing. It also influences the degree of attention we devote to it and the depth of our immersion in it.
The Net’s cacophony of stimuli short-circuits both conscious and unconscious thought, preventing our minds from thinking either deeply or creatively.
The more you multi-task, the less deliberative you’ve become; the less able to think and reason out a problem… What we’re doing when we multitask is learning to be skillful at a superficial level.
The offloading of memory to external data banks doesn’t just threaten the depth and distinctiveness of the self. It threatens the depth and distinctiveness of the culture we all share.
The great danger we face as we become more intimately involved with our computers – as we come to experience more of our lives through the disembodied symbols flickering across our screens – is that we’ll begin to lose our humanness, to sacrifice the very qualities that separate us from machines. The only way to avoid that fate is to have the self-awareness and courage to refuse to delegate to computers the most human of our mental activities and intellectual pursuits, particularly tasks that demand wisdom.
The book is not a book about spirituality but about our brains and mental capacities but I believe it has some profound implications also for spirituality since what we call the “spiritual growth” has much more to do with meditation, contemplation and transformation than with information and efficiency. What do you think? Is the internet helping to make us shallow people? How do we cultivate depth in our lives?