Surely I’m among the oldest readers of Relevant, a magazine about “God, Life, and Progressive Culture” geared to twentysomething readers. The September-October 2010 issue features an article about the personal and interpersonal impact of Facebook and other social networking technologies. There’s a similar focus in several New York Times articles and in Nicholas Carr’s book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Here are random conclusions based on recent research and published evaluations:
- Our brains and ways of thinking are being remolded neurologically by the constant stimulation, overloads of information, and incessant bursts of short term messages that undermine our ability to concentrate or think in depth. New neural pathways are formed as we “abandon sustained immersion and concentration” but “dart about, snagging bits of information,” continually surfing the hypnotic Internet. (Nicholas Carr and NYTimes).
- Digital devices and the myth that multitasking increases efficiency (the opposite is true) leave us fatigued and less able to learn, remember, and come up with new ideas. Gym routines accompanied by television and iPod docs are less effective than outside workouts or exercise without digital stimulation.(See NYTimes and Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain).
- For some people, cell phones and the Internet have become addictive, leading to impatience, forgetfulness, and deteriorating ability to maintain healthy relationships in real life. Problems may be looming if you can’t shut off your devices or stay away from Facebook for a day or two (NYTimes)
- The Relevant article argues persuasively that social technologies can build a subtle narcissism, exhibitionism, self-absorption and neurotic co-dependency.
None of this was relevant In 2002 when this newsletter started as a one-way commentary sent to the email boxes of students and professionals interested in counseling and coaching. Facebook did not exist when this letter began 400 plus weeks ago. Blogs were rare compared to today. Electronic readers and interactive hand-held devices were still novelties, unseen forerunners of new kinds of communication. The benefits of these new technologies is widely acknowledged, writes Relevant author Shane Hipps. Because of technology we read, learn, interact and think differently than we did before. Many in our technologically-connected culture only see the benefits but seem “utterly blind to the liabilities, the inevitable losses that certain technologies bring.” How does this impact your education, business, ministry, or people helping? Please leave a comment.