Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

07 April 2009

Another Compelling Case for Reading a Book!

A while ago I stumbled upon the article Is Google Making us Stupid? by Nicholas Carr. It starts like this:

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet. The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes. A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after. Even when I’m not working, I’m as likely as not to be foraging in the Web’s info-thickets’reading and writing e-mails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link.

The bottom line? The internet is a wonderful tool however we move around it quickly. We can find what we need with great speed. And if we start reading something and it doesn't meet our need or hold our interest then there is always another website to visit - and off we go! Cage looks at the long term effect of this style of reading/operating and while it is anecdotal at present (there is no hard research on the effect of the constant use of the internet on brain function but wow! - there are a few PhDs there!!) he suggests that at best it is changing the way we think and at worst it is flattening our capacity to think and certainly to concentrate.

Now I know my capacity to concentrate has been seriously deteriorating over the last few years. First there were the pregnancy hormones (although I am not entirely convinced of this as an excuse at least for myself) and then there was the baby fog (that was real!). But in truth a good part of my loss of brain function is simply because I haven't exercised it and it has just become very unfit.

This is one of many reasons why I started this blog - to do something new, to stretch myself, to connect a few new synapses in my brain and reconnect a few that became disconnected along the way.

So now I am going to start reading again. I will start small with a modest reading list both in quantity and content because I know that if I am over ambitious (when it comes to matters of fitness, be that of brain or body) then failure will surely follow. And I will build up slowly. The trick as always will be to approach this in a godly fashion, to set suitable boundaries and to work on not adding more to the agenda to the detriment of the core stuff that needs to be maintained and done well. I will keep you posted!

And the great irony of the "Is Google Making us Stupid?" article? For an article on the internet it was extremely long and took considerable concentration to read. I'd be certain the irony was not lost on Nicholas Carr.

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